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Times are changing. The C-Suite has to acknowledge that savvier investment needs to be made to ensure the online experience is a knockout.

There are some things in life that can’t be changed. You can’t change your blood relations but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them.

You can’t change your past but you can change your future. You can’t change the decisions got you where you are today but your future decisions can take you in new, more life changing directions.

My point is that there are some things you can’t control but you shouldn’t let that define you.

For the few percent of people in the world who choose to take control of their own destiny and start their own business (or those who become a business owner), there are business realities that we have to face up to but you can still control your own destiny.

The reality is you and your team simply have to create a perceived value in your product and service to get people to spend money with you.

You can’t control what your competitors are doing but you can create your own culture. For a business to succeed it requires one person to make it happen.

What about your business online? How important is it and what steps should you be taking?

Back in late 2012 I published “Will 2013 be the year of conversion optimisation?” So, was it?

Was it hell.

So when will it be the ‘year of conversion optimisation’? At the rate we are going, 2019. What a crying shame.

If only conversion optimisation was as sexy sounding as social media, big data, personalisation or omni-channel (for more areas of focus, see Ashley Friedlein's 10 digital marketing trends for 2016).

In this post I will discuss five realities every CEO must get to grips with in 2016 (and beyond) when it comes to their online experience.

1. Investing intelligently in converting visitors to customers will become essential

There is still a fundamental disconnect between the amount of money companies spend on acquiring traffic, versus what they are willing to invest in turning a higher percentage of that traffic in to customers.

It’s almost as if increasing the investment in conversion optimisation is somehow problematic for an acquisition strategy, when reality is it has the potential to dramatically improve the ROI you get from the hundreds, thousands and millions of pounds spent on traffic acquisition each month.

Even those businesses who are increasing their investment in conversion optimisation may not be doing so intelligently and are therefore still struggling to grow.

Millions of pounds of marketing budget is wasted each year on tools which just aren’t used properly and are therefore failing to produce the advertised results.

Then there are millions of pounds being spent on big website redesigns that simply don’t deliver the increase in performance expected from that level of spend.

The reality for CEOs is that by investing consistently and intelligently in strategic conversion optimisation they will finally be creating the platform on which they can outgrow their competition.

Here are five characteristics of businesses ready to grow through conversion optimisation. If you are embarking on a website redesign, here is how to avoid disaster.

2. Pure and simple, A/B testing needs to be mastered before you starting chasing the home run that is big data & personalisation

It is very easy to be excited by something new and shiny. You want to dive in head first and play with all the bells and whistles.

Think about your first love. Whether it was love at first sight or your mutual feelings took a little longer to develop, you no doubt fell head over heels with that person.

You probably didn’t even stop and think about what are the important foundations to get in place to allow your new relationship to have the biggest chance of long term success.

Because of this, realistically, you won’t be with your first love today. Data-driven optimisation is a culture of experimentation.

It can’t be like a first love because if it is, chances are you will have limited impact, low test success rate, poor buy-in from senior management and a general lack of confidence in the potential of conversion optimisation being a crucial growth lever for your business.

So many times I see businesses conducting quite complex personalisation and multivariate tests, with little or no reason why.

When you analyse the online experiences of these businesses, it become clear very quickly that what they shouldn’t be doing is getting distracted by the shiny new tools and complex tests.

Instead, they should learn to walk before they can run by mastering the science and art of researching, planning and delivering intelligent, insight driven A/B tests.

The reality for CEOs is that they need to recognise that big data and personalisation is not what their business needs right now.

What their business really needs is intelligent and pure A/B testing to drag their online experience kicking and screaming to a place which benefits everyone of their visitors.

Intelligent KPIs are also required to measure and improve the impact that optimisation is having for your business – my previous article ‘vanity versus sanity metrics in conversion optimisation’ underlines the importance of quality then quantity, for your optimisation strategy.

3. Tools and machines cannot replicate people’s brains

I have previously written about why MVT (multivariate testing) should be replaced by NHT (No Hypothesis Testing).

In that article, I explained how so often the role of coming up with an ‘improved’ version or variation of a webpage is put in the hands of the tool.

Instead of having one or two strong, intelligent variations based on an insight driven hypothesis, the tool is used to deliver multiple variations of headlines, buttons and copy to visitors to see “which one sticks.”

The biggest mistake businesses make is in limiting the investment they make in people, or more importantly, in people’s expertise.

So often companies invest a huge amount of money in enterprise level tools, only to just scratch the surface on what is actually possible.

If you asked 50 brands if they feel they are getting value for money from their testing platform or whether they are utilising the feature set to its potential, 10% (at most, from my experience) would say yes.

The reality for CEOs is that they need to recognise that data-driven optimisation will not be achieved without significant investment in the people responsible for crafting and delivering improved online experiences.

Think user researchers, data analysts, UX designers, front and back end developers, copywriters and psychologists.

These are all essential skill-sets being employed by brands like Booking.com, AO.com and Spotify. AO.com has used such people so well that it led me to asking whether AO is the best ecommerce experience online?

4. You will need to become customer-centric at some stage

Becoming or being customer-centric seems like an obvious statement. Most business would claim they are customer-centric.

The reality is businesses are still only scratching the surface when it comes to truly understanding the behaviour, perception, expectations and motivations of the people they call customers.

Let’s get this straight. Having some remote user testing videos done, adding an on-site survey and watching a few session recordings does not a customer-centric business make.

It doesn’t even get you close. You could say I’m just biased as I have worked in user research for over 15 years now, but here is what these 15 years have taught me about conversion optimisation.

The reality is those businesses that genuinely make that decision to become customer-centric are the ones outpacing their competition and taking market share; you only need to look at Shop Direct Group to see that.

You need to make this same decision before it’s too late.

5. Yes, your competitors are already taking optimisation really seriously

Be warned, your competitors are already taking conversion optimisation much more seriously than they ever have before.

They’ve seen the true beauty of conversion optimisation, experimentation, and having a test and learn culture running through their business.

The beauty is you can take control of your own destiny.

You choose how much investment you’ll make in people, skills, tools, processes, cultural transformation.

You choose how ambitious and progressive your business will be in optimising and evolving your online experience. You choose whether the business embraces the full spectrum of optimisation.

Do you want an example of a brand controlling its own destiny? Look no further than AO.com.

I’ll put it out there, it's making buying washing machines and dishwashers fun and desirable. If AO.com can do this, what is stopping you?

In summary

It’s time to face up to these realities and start walking the walk. Remember, you can control your own destiny.

Time to choose.

Paul Rouke

Published 1 February, 2016 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

36 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Chris @CWGBorrett

Chris @CWGBorrett, Consultant at Management Consulting

Great article Paul. The Shiny New Toy metaphor is so true, this trend is being driven and exaggerated in a lot of instances, by large digital agencies and consulting practices that offer business cases to organisations that promise quick and effective results. On top of this, the regular battle with procurement can often water down the end solution to a point where the 'shiny new toy' is full of....nothing. A huge issue that is difficult to overcome in the current environment, because in order to stay competitive, agencies and consultancies have to over promise and have to undercut! Cheers, Chris.

8 months ago

Robert Arwel Hughes

Robert Arwel Hughes, Optimisation & Personalisation Specialist at Adobe

Brilliant article. People, Process and then Product. Data driven hypotheses are critical to long term success and sustainability of any testing program. Many are yet to grasp this concept and are still stuck satisfying the big hippos in their companies.

7 months ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Chris - thank you very much for your feedback. You've touched on a really important point - the promise of quick and effective results. So many companies try and run before they can even crawl never mind walk. Expecting big impact and cultural change quickly is just not the mentality that business leaders should be adopting. Many times companies simply aren't playing the long game, instead putting all their chips down for having immediate big successes or else they will go off and play another game.

@Robert - thanks for your feedback, I'm glad you liked the article. It sounds like are experiencing the sames things at Adobe that we see at PRWD every day. There is a long road ahead but boy is it going to be worth it!

7 months ago

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