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If You Want to Improve Your Testing Program, It’s Time to Start Focusing on Your Customers

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In 2015, testing and optimization can no longer be called a new idea. Thanks to conferences like Click Summit and the work of technologists—many of which are our partners—and innovative practitioners, the importance of data-driven strategy and testing in particular is well known. Yet in spite of clear ROI, businesses still only dedicate one dollar to conversion optimization, on average, for every $92 spent on customer acquisition. And even those that have embraced data have struggled to build a competitive advantage from it.

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The struggle is not a result of lack of effort. Instead, it reflects the reality that effective testing and optimization requires a complex set of competencies that can only be developed through experience. This experience leads to more frequent success, which in turn leads to broader organizational support for testing.

At Brooks Bell, we have described this process of cultural and organizational transformation with a formal maturity model. Through formal comprehensive assessments and extensive industry relationships, we’ve benchmarked the testing programs of more than 300 companies. What we discovered is that the most mature programs share several critical characteristics: They’ve established a center of excellence, refined a standardized process for testing and analysis, and they have organization-wide visibility.

The obvious question that arises is: How do we get to the highest level of maturity? Most often, we see testing teams focus on building streaks of small, incremental wins, struggling to increase test velocity by any means necessary, and working tirelessly to refine their optimization technology stack. These are all important considerations and have the potential to provide limited gains in performance and program momentum. Ultimately, however, attaining the highest degree of program maturity requires something else: A dedication to customer centricity.

According to recent research by Accenture, 57 percent of consumers find it difficult to find the information they need on websites and 62 percent are not satisfied with their experience on company websites, generally. And across our assessments, we have seen the most successful testing programs have an almost singular focus on improving the customer experience.

To accomplish this, we must start using customer-oriented language at every stage of the testing process from planning to design, execution to analysis. We must begin by asking not how the test will generate a lift, but how it will improve the customer experience. We must campaign for the budget and support necessary to establish a customer-focused center of excellence; not a simple task but possible through pitching, tailored appeals, and the formation of interdepartmental partnerships. We must incorporate this vision into our training, ideation, and reporting processes. And finally, we must develop realistic measures of program growth that connect the individual effort of each test with a total improvement of the customer experience.

Attaining this degree of maturity is not easy but by orienting your program around the needs of the customer, it’s possible to move toward the most advanced and successful data-driven businesses.