In the last few months I’ve spoken to a number of agencies who are considering building conversion optimization practices. To date, most of these agencies have had some rudimentary experience with testing and personalization derived from their traffic acquisition and customer retention services. The experience is often limited to A/B testing landing pages or email split tests on desktops.
That’s about to change. Whereas in the past only a handful of agencies in the market had successfully built dedicated testing teams, agencies are now looking to develop optimization practices that help their clients act on their ever increasing record of historical, situational and demographic customer data.
A recent report from Econsultancy and Ensighten, "Customer Experience Optimization Report”, found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents to a customer experience survey for marketers often feel overwhelmed with the volume of incoming data, and just 27% are able to turn all data into something useful and actionable. Brands are relying on agencies to help them make sense of the data to improve the customer experience. According to the report, “Being in the position to deliver a superior customer experience is a significant competitive advantage, therefore acquiring and mastering the tools and skills to do this should be among the most urgent of priorities.”
Many agencies have expressed to me that they are seeing this urgency manifest in client demand for conversion rate optimization capabilities. Where historically CRO was no more than a footnote at the bottom of a work order, today clients are requesting CRO as an independent endeavor, worthy of larger budgets and additional resources. As agencies often have the wide variety of skills sets and resources required to manage the testing process, they are in a better position to implement and execute testing than their clients are internally. Due to the increasing demand for testing, agencies are shifting their mindsets from landing page A/B testing to multivariate testing and personalization of the entire customer journey, including conversion funnels and across devices, to impact the full customer experience.
Here are eight reasons why agencies urgently need to focus on customer experience optimization:
1. The Business Impact is Strong--and Getting Stronger
According to Forrester’s TechRadar Report, Digital Customer Experience Technologies, the business value-add for testing and optimization is “High” and on a trajectory for “Significant success”:
Testing and Optimization solutions provide evidence of what works and what doesn’t in the context of a digital experience, and automatically optimizes for customer value.” Further, Forrester “sees strong use cases beyond commerce, at organizations that take content, digital experience and conversion metrics based around their digital channels seriously.
As far as timing goes, the outlook seems bright, with testing and optimization beginning their rapid ascent to mass adoption. Forrester estimates that testing and optimization are only at the beginning of the growth stage on the technology maturity curve, with another three to five years of growth before the laggards catch up and the equilibrium stage is reached. Agencies that develop expertise now will be gain an advantage over their competitors.
2. There’s a Serious Agency Practice to be Had
Make no mistake, optimization can be a big business for agencies that manage testing soup to nuts. Agencies that hire skilled individuals who are fully trained on a user-friendly platform that allows for easy campaign creation, deployment and QA, who also have a strong testing process and methodology can create a rhythm to increase testing velocity. The higher the velocity, the higher the return to warrant investment in software and services. Check out this post for tips on increasing velocity.
A team of vertically-focused digital experts ideally consists of consultants, analysts, developers, and QC to assist in the process of roadmapping, prioritization, briefing documents, campaign specifications and execution. The combination of these parts equates to a sizeable service: agencies report that moderately sized clients may require 2000 yearly hours, while larger and more sophisticated clients can utilize north of 4,000 hours of strategy and development support. Is that compelling for you?
3. The Long Tail of Optimization Will Transform The Customer Experience
Last year, Forbes predicted that marketing would shift from globalization to personalization in 2015:
The world is more connected because of technology these days, but marketing is becoming more regionalized, and more localized, even more individualized, as consumers resist homogenization. Personalization is not a trend. It is a marketing tsunami, here to stay, which will transform how we think about and how we manage global brands.
There is no better playing field at the moment than the world of digital optimization, and I refer to this as the Optimization Long Tail. The Long Tail of Optimization implies testing specific micro-segments of traffic that are comprised of multiple attributes and make up a meaningful portion of the visitor population. A powerful optimization platform should both identify these segments as well as the content that is the most meaningful to them, allowing brands to squeeze more value out of their traffic and drive considerably higher conversions and revenue.
Let’s look at an example:
BMIBaby is a low cost European airline that has proven how successful personalization can be, identifying the perfect destination for each visitor among 34 total destinations. By leveraging predictive algorithms that automatically analyze customer data to identify the most relevant destination for each visitor, BMIBaby was able to generate 3.7% increase in revenue.
Another airline, Alaska Airlines, discovered that their customers were behaving differently in the booking funnel based on the day of the week. They were able to tailor specific messaging for those purchasing on a weekday versus those purchasing on the weekend, to drive a 7% uplift in car booking upsells, without compromising purchases on airline tickets.
The Long Tail of Optimization will allow agencies to granularly personalize the brand experience, which will make them ever more crucial to their clients.
4. The Agencies that Help Brands Answer THE BIG Questions Will Remain Strategically Relevant
The value of testing goes beyond lifts in conversions.. Agencies can play a much larger role in providing fundamental insight into what to invest in and, sometimes even more importantly, what NOT to invest in. Before your clients boil an ocean, you can help them feel confident that their million dollar initiative will not be a flop by testing out how customers will react to digital changes, whether they be to pricing, product, brand, website, mobile, service or technology. Using an iterative, test and learn process, many Maxymiser clients and partner agencies have won significant internal respect and a little ego padding telling their senior level executives/clients that big plans for major strategic initiatives are not worth their time and money. You will be the star of the show.
5. Testing is More Valuable to Agencies With a Customer Centric Approach
An agency may spend hours creating, designing and deploying a test only to find out that the default content was the winning experience. It is an unfortunate situation for an agency getting paid on billable hours to have wasted time without deriving any meaningful conclusions from a test. Now, however, agencies that are adopting a customer-centric approach to testing and are leveraging predictive analytics can derive insights from tests where there was no “winner-for-all”. Even where default content is the winner, agencies can still identify multi-attribute micro-segments of visitors where alternate experiences are more relevant than the default. The result? Your billed hours will always deliver value to clients no matter the results of a test.
6. Secure Your Clients’ Engagement, Even Post Site Relaunch
Over the last 10 years many agencies have become dependent on customer acquisition strategies and site redesigns to generate revenue from clients. Estimates vary, but historically, brands have tended to redesign their websites as frequently as every two to three years with the hope of freshening the experience. Marketers, however, are becoming increasingly focused on an iterative approach that meaningfully utilizes the investments they are making. They have awoken to the realization that doubling conversion rates effectively means halving acquisition costs. A recent Maxymiser survey found that the number one concern for 40% of marketers is converting site traffic into paying customers. Testing optimizes your work and ensures that your value add continues long after a site has been relaunched.
7. Drive a Higher Return on Other Digital Experience Technologies
Help your clients determine whether their digital technology investments have been worthwhile. According to Forrester, testing and optimization, “increase(s) the broader digital experience investments by increasing effectiveness and resonance with customers of specific elements within the experience or website.” Examples of such marketing technologies we’ve tested at Maxymiser include the appearance, verbiage and cross device placement of Chat Buttons, Email sign-ups, Survey forms, Product Recommendations, Site Search, and even the effectiveness of web content management systems. By helping clients understand what technologies have added value and what have failed, you will remain invaluable and irreplaceable.
8. Client Side Conversion Funnel Testing Takes the Fear Out of Funnel Manipulation
Agencies can use powerful testing platforms to impact the purchase funnel where it counts the most, that is, in the website pages that have the visitors with the highest intent to convert--the conversion funnel. Marketers have traditionally proceeded with extreme caution when it comes to the purchase funnel. However, with client side testing, impacting core purchase paths with controlled testing poses little risk to the brands. As long as there’s a well-thought out funnel hypothesis and a QA tool in production to ensure that elements appear as they should, agencies can impact funnels and drive significant revenue increases without causing worrying over adverse testing outcomes.
Don’t fall behind. It’s time to build your practice. To find out how to offer customer experience optimization services reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.