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On the Road Again with Brooks Bell


We didn’t listen to Willie Nelson, but we did gather a team, plan a road trip and head to the West Coast for two leading industry conferences.

At Brooks Bell, we believe in pursuing knowledge. Becoming experts. Being curious. And improving a little every day. Every now and again, this requires leaving our Raleigh, NC offices and hitting the road to pick up new insights from industry partners and drop some of our experimentation expertise along the way. Our latest travels took us to Las Vegas and San Francisco.

And yes, we combined a little pleasure with a lot of business.

What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas – Unless We Attended Opticon 2017
That’s right – we’re going against the old adage to share our Opticon experiences with you.

Opticon is one of the top experimentation conferences in the industry, hosted by leading experimentation platform, Optimizely. This year, we booked our flights to Vegas (and armed ourselves with a little extra cash for the slot machines) and prepared for three days of dynamic conversation about how creativity and science work together to drive innovation and transform organizations.

Brooks Bell is a three-star Optimizely partner, which we took to a new level this year as a Titanium sponsor. We were able to make new friends at our Expo Hall booth, enjoy Vegas with a few of our clients and participate in powerful sessions – one of which was led by founder and CEO, Brooks Bell, and our president, Naoshi Yamauchi.

During their session, “The Power of Storytelling to Drive Cultural Change,” they shared how experimentation leaders can build a strong narrative around their experimentation program to accelerate organizational change and help avoid what Naoshi termed “Culture Crushers.” Chris Chapo, vice president of customer data and analytics at Gap, and Caitlin Anderson, marketing manager of experimentation at UBER, joined us for a brief Q&A at the end.

Running from Oct. 17 to 19, the event brought together like-minded leaders and practitioners, who are as passionate about experimentation as we are every day. A great group from the Brooks Bell team was able to attend, including Brooks; Naoshi; Martin Kelleher, CFO/COO; Mike Adams, vice president of optimization engineering; Josh St. John, vice president of partnerships and channels; Scott Plumb, director of client development; Claire Schmitt, vice president of strategic consulting and solutions; Emily Koehler; director of account management; and Brittany Baron, senior marketing manager.

Here are their seven top takeaways from Opticon 2017:

    1. Leaders must invest in understanding and executing A/B testing as a core competency. This is becoming a mainstream need and is no longer a “nice-to-have.” A recent article in the Harvard Business Journal said, “At a time when the web is vital to almost all businesses, rigorous online experiments should be standard operating procedure. If a company develops the software infrastructure and organizational skills to conduct them, it will be able to assess not only ideas for websites but also potential business models, strategies, products, services, and marketing campaigns—all relatively inexpensively. Controlled experiments can transform decision making into a scientific, evidence-driven process—rather than an intuitive reaction. Without them, many breakthroughs might never happen, and many bad ideas would be implemented, only to fail, wasting resources.”
    1. Maturing an experimentation program is critical. The days of “testing to test” are over. Optimizely is now encouraging their customers to mature their existing programs. By maturity, they don’t just mean executing a high velocity of tests or getting into personalization. That’s a small part of program maturity , but Opticon emphasized how important it is for testing to be a core competency for organizations by building teams, process and culture, coupled with having the right tools and strategy. The Brooks Bell team has practiced this methodology for years through our belief in six pillars of a successful experimentation program.
    1. If you focus only on qualitative and quantitative data, you’re leaving winners on the table. For years, many testing experts have been using qualitative and quantitative data to help with the ideation of their testing roadmap. Sure, this is a necessity for any organization, but going beyond data to understand the voices of your customer and users will build the most effective testing roadmap. At Brooks Bell, we’ve instituted behavioral economics to help with our ideation process. Understanding the key principles of user behavior is a key component to building the right user experience for a particular experiment.
    1. The industry is moving away from being a place where static content and layout are king. Large companies are moving to dynamically driven, responsive websites where content and layout change quickly without reloading. Experimentation programs must adapt to the stack their site is built on, and we’re seeing more and more of these stacks built on frameworks like React and Angular.  Optimizely’s focus is in the right place when planning for how we account for these complex scenarios on an experimentation level.
    1. A successful program is where individual goals encapsulate goals for the company and its entire experimentation program. The backlog is constantly prioritized based on customer impact, business strategy, opportunity and level of effort. The program is regularly measured and monitored, and testers are continuously assessing new potential experiments.
    1. To succeed in the subscription economy, never stop iterating. Meaningful growth may take time, and validating ideas through testing is a great way gain insights. Test everything, prioritize ideas and define testing value. Don’t skip the low-hanging fruit, and go big!
  1. The Wall Street Journal used a term to describe those of us in experimentation as persuasion scientists. The role of persuasion scientists is to inject direct, unfiltered, accurate customer feedback.

Digital Velocity – The Real San Francisco Treat

Tealium ⎯ a leader in real-time customer data solutions and enterprise tag management ⎯ hosted its annual user conference, Digital Velocity Oct. 18 to 19, drawing marketing leaders from 15 industries and 175 companies to San Francisco, CA. Together, with a lineup of more than 30 keynote speakers, the group explored the state of the digital industry, examined challenges and shared successes.

Brooks Bell was a Platinum conference sponsor, and our experts Reid Bryant, vice president of analytics and data science, and Dave Rose, director of optimization analytics, had the opportunity lead a lively roundtable discussion. The topic? Effective approaches and techniques to create practical, profitable personalization strategies. If it isn’t a hot topic for your current experimentation strategy, it should be under consideration for 2018.

Reid, Dave, Scott Teschendorf, senior optimization engineer; and Samantha Baker, strategy consultant, spent two days learning new insights and capturing data to share with the East Coast team, as well as our Brooks Bell customers.

Here are six of their top takeaways from Digital Velocity SF:

    1. Personalization is like hyper-segmentation. 1:1 is achievable, but the threshold is budget. It should be a goal to personalize to everybody. Our job as marketers is to understand for whom we should be personalizing. Ask yourself, is your personalization, accessible, differentiable, actionable, measurable and substantial? There are many personalization tools to help you with these efforts. Among them are custom tools, Optimizely, Site Core and Tealium.
    1. When it comes to optimization, sometimes the best approach is to start small. You can see the impact of even the smallest changes when an entire site overhaul may not be necessary. Consider Key Performance Indicators that aren’t just revenue, as there are others which still hold weight in demonstrating success. Also, create a benchmark before making any changes so you can accurately gauge the impact of changes you make. Review changes in 60 days to evaluate success.  
    1. Storytelling is more impactful in images than in words. Remember data alone can’t tell a story. Having data just for data’s sake is not enough. It has to be actionable, and the way you explain the data and show its meaning is how you tell a story with data.
    1. There are three primary types of data privacy issues to avoid: (1) Misuse of personal data, (2) Data hygiene errors, and (3) Invasion ads. We always consider segmentation and personalization based on attributes and past browsing behavior. We need to consider how the customer feels about data privacy. For example, a retargeting campaign might be creepy to certain individuals, but feel personalized to others.
    1. Timing is twice as important as the channel, and the channel is twice as important as the message.
  1. Matching the right message to the right moment for customers is more challenging when actual time doesn’t mean much when you can do almost anything at any time of day.

Want to ask us more about our experiences? Give us a shout on social @brooksbellinc or email us at [email protected].