Experimentation in product development: How you can maximize the customer experience

Experimentation in product development: How you can maximize the customer experience

Are you a product builder or a maximizer?

Hila Qu, Vice President of Growth at Acorns, has a theory.

She says there are two kinds of product managers: the builders and the maximizers.

Ideally, on your product team, you have both: the builders who conceptualize a solution in product development, from the ideation stage all the way until the customer roll-out.

WiderFunnel Product Teams as Builders
Product Builders are essential to organizations because they conceive the product that provides value to the customer in the first place.

They’re very important because, without them, there’s nothing; they are building the value from zero to one,” Hila explains.

And then, there are those that can maximize the customer’s value through experimentation in product development.

The bulk of the product value is already created, but how can you maximize that value? The maximizers help customers understand the product better when a new product or feature is launched because we often assume people will know how to use it.

Hila Qu

VP of Growth at Acorns

WiderFunnel Product Teams Maximing the Value of Customer Experience
Product Maximizers build upon the value of the product through experimentation.

It’s an interesting distinction—between developing and experimentation.

Product development is all about making your product solve your customer’s real-world problem, and the builders aim to make the process frictionless so they will create a habit out of returning.

But product development teams might not know if they were successful. Or how they could improve the experience for the users.

Experimentation enables the maximizers to improve upon the value that is already developed, to make the customer experience more delightful.

Actually, your product team can leverage experimentation where ever they are in the product development cycle: They can test an idea before launch; Or they can improve your feature after it’s rolled out to your customers.

Experimentation is iterative; your product team learns and develops as they gain insights about your business and your customers.

If you are exploring the possibilities of product experimentation at your organization; if you are a marketing leader looking to evangelize experimentation throughout the business—this post is for you.

In this post, we’re tackling the essentials of experimentation in product development. Essentials like:

  • The breadth and depth of experimentation in product development so you can start dreaming up the possibilities.
  • An understanding of the stakes when experimenting within the product development cycle, especially when those hard-earned customers are interacting with your brand.
  • And why experimentation in product development is a leap toward a customer-centric organization, a strategy for growth.

But we also wanted to show you examples. So, we talked to product managers at Optimizely, Acorns, RVShare and Stitch Fix about the opportunities for product experimentation in reaching business goals.

And they are clearly seeing results.

You might be thinking: what is product experimentation?

Client-side experimentation is based on the premise that what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s about visual changes to the content hierarchy of the website.

Innovative marketers have been doing this form of optimization for years, and they’ve seen the success. So what’s next?

Product experimentation is often top of mind when it comes to expanding an optimization program internally. That’s because there are more possibilities.

The product life cycle is usually more elongated than the marketing lifecycle,” explains Giannis Psaroudakis, Director, Product at Optimizely.

In the marketing lifecycle, you have a campaign and you have a very specific goal, which is sometimes short-lived – you want to increase your leads, for instance.

If you are optimizing your website to get a customer to convert, only to have a product that does not live up to the customer’s expectations—those hard-to-win customers are going to look elsewhere.

But it can be tricky.

Product managers don’t always get it right the first time, and that’s why it’s important to have a feedback loop with your customers.

It’s important to maximize the value of your product. Understanding how your customers are finding value and optimizing their journey so that they can find that value faster.

“Even well-researched products can suffer due to the gap between what customers think they want and what their behaviors reveal they actually want.

By testing a new feature or even a variation of that feature, your product team can see if it is improving the customer experience, or actually making it worse.

The experimentation mindset aligned with the premise of a minimum viable product, seeing how your customers react through a gradual or even incremental roll-out. It allows you to test new ideas before a full launch.

Don’t frame it as a product launch. Just frame it as an experiment.

Dan Siroker

Optimizely Co-Founder and Executive Chairman

If you crave that buzz of a big launch, experimentation after-the-fact enables you to get the most out of those ideas—and your organization’s investment.

By the time something this big has been built, the launch is very, very unlikely to be permanently rolled back no matter what the metrics say.

Rather, the randomized experiment, in this case, is for visibility, and to provide information that might help with making future decisions.

Announcing a feature or product through an official launch can inspire adoption—particularly if you have a large customer base to which you can communicate.

But once your product is rolled out, you can start to understand how your customers are interacting with the features at every touchpoint through experimentation.

Product experimentation should make the job of the end user easier or more helpful. If that’s not the goal in your company than you might be running it the wrong way.

Martijn Scheijbeler

Vice President of Marketing at RVShare

Those learnings can be brought forth into future product evolutions—whether that’s changing copy to highlight your value proposition, or smoothing out the funnel flow to reduce friction.

And you can even experiment after your customer logs into your experience, especially when confidentiality is essential for your business.

Do what your customer wants: A painted door experiment example from Optimizely

We created a painted door experiment informing customers we intend to give you this feature, sign up to get early access. We wanted to test if its value proposition resonated with our users,” explains Giannis Psaroudakis of Optimizely.

For those that don’t know–a painted door or a fake door experiment is a way of gauging customer interest in a feature, service or product without building anything.

When the customer clicks a call-to-action button or a link, or even registers with their information, they are notified that it has yet to exist. And they might see something like:

Hey! We haven’t actually built this feature yet, but are you interested?

Of course, you have to know if your customers would be open to this type of experience. You would have to make the experience intriguing enough so that it doesn’t cause frustration.

But you get the data to see if customers find that appealing. Or at least made them curious enough to click or register. And for Optimizely, this worked:

We had several customers enthusiastically send us feedback. It was overwhelming—we received dozens and dozens of requests which is quite uncommon and we even had a customer send us a photo of a thumbs up.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in Product Development Optimizely painted door experiment example
Experimentation is a feedback loop with your customers, but in Optimizely’s painted door experiment, they were able to delight their users with the hope of a new feature.

A painted door experiment, like this, truly exemplifies the power of running a cheap form of experiment as a gauge for the next step.

It gives you the confidence that you’re moving in the right direction, without a single line of code or effort by an engineer.

But more importantly, it’s that feedback loop with your customers.

Relevant resources

The scientific method of product experimentation

Let me first clarify: you don’t test features in product experimentation, you test hypotheses.

Product experimentation takes an optimizer’s brain: It takes an analytical mind to be able to see the opportunities for product experimentation. It also needs the scientific method to turn ideas into measurable hypotheses.

Move away from the mental model of thinking of new products and new features you want to build, in the form of a list of requirements, and instead, think of them as hypotheses.

Giannis Psaroudakis

Director, Product at Optimizely

Rather than saying, “we need to build feature X that has this requirement and that requirement, because customers asked us to”, you start with presenting these same requirements in the form of if/then statements.

This is so important because it sidesteps any HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion), and it persuades you to think about your product—how you’re building the product—in the form of experiments. In other words, hypotheses that you can validate with data.

Making data-driven decisions is important in product experimentation because the stakes are higher.

You are experimenting within your product experience on your many already acquired customers so you need to have high quality assurance and more guard rails to what makes it to the experimentation stage.

We have a more rigorous review process for product experiment hypotheses,” recalls Giannis Psaroudakis.

We have an experiment review, which is more of an advisory process that allows us to surface new product experimentation ideas and specifically review our hypotheses.

Anyone in the organization can submit their “experiment briefs”—customer challenge, hypotheses, and metrics of success—through Optimizely’s Program Management platform.

And we revise these experiment briefs in the weekly experiment reviews to make sure that whoever is planning to run a product experiment has carefully thought about the hypothesis and the metrics of success.

The scientific method ensures that you can make the data-driven decisions on how your product—and the customer experience—should evolve.

Free Worksheet

Identify opportunities for maximizing your product’s value.

When you use the scientific method in experimentation, you don’t test features; you test hypotheses. Start planning your first product experiment with our hypothesis worksheet.

Digging deep into data to find that first product experiment opportunity at Acorns

When I joined two years ago, my goal was to improve customer retention,” recalls Hila Qu. “But it is a very broad goal: What do we mean by improving customer retention?

Hila described how she talked to her co-workers—those stakeholders who have been exploring the problem. She asked them the reasons people left their app and their opinions as to what might improve customer engagement.

But she didn’t stop there.

I also worked with our data analytics team to do a quantitative analysis. Basically, I was trying to identify which customer behavior encouraged people to stay.

For example, I looked at the retention curve after a customer completed action A in the product, and compared that to the retention curve of people who didn’t complete action A in the product within their first month.

Using that methodology, I was able to compare different behaviors, because for any digital product, there are a lot of actions user can take.

I was able to narrow down to one particular user behavior where I saw that if the user completes that action, their retention is much better that if the user doesn’t. I also saw that many customers weren’t actually completing that action.

Through her analysis, Hila identified that if a new customer completed action A at the onset of their journey, it had an influence on the customer’s future behavior.

It had a much bigger impact because at that moment, we had people’s attention and they were excited. They wanted to get started with the product.

Hila then mapped out the journey, considering the many paths that a customer could take to complete action A. And there were several:

“For example, you can go to the menu, click that menu item and use that feature; Or, you can basically send them an email with that call-to-action to use that feature. I identified all of the paths so I could understand which one I could focus on first.

So, my hypothesis was based on the data; it seems like if we can get more people to complete action A, the retention will be better. I narrowed down to new customers and if I could get more of them to complete action A, it would be most impactful and easier to influence people’s behavior.

Her first experiment was simple. She didn’t have the development or engineering resources since she was only initiating a product experimentation program.

She hadn’t yet proven experimentation’s value internally, so she needed to identify an opportunity where she could show business impact from a small investment of resources.

We already had a modal in our registration flow that asked people to take action A, but the modal was at the very end of the flow. And you only see the modal if you completed another action. So, I narrowed down to this particular area.

I wanted to test copy. That experiment had the potential for a very high ROI. If it worked, it could have a big impact, but also the effort required was relatively small. It was really just changing the copy and testing different copy against each other.

And it worked.

We launched it and saw over 60% improvement in conversion rate.

Simple or complex—product experimentation can have a big impact.

Further resources

Experimenting broadly and deeply in product development

When it comes to experimentation in product development, you have more opportunity to optimize your experience. That’s because you can experiment broadly and deeply into the product development cycle.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in Product Development Cycle

There are plenty of opportunities to experiment in the product development cycle.

Share the insight:

Consider the stages of product development:

First, you have the Discovery stage where you ideate new features or products and this is particularly relevant when you ideate in the form of hypotheses.

According to Meg Watson, Product Manager at Stitch Fix, her team also conducts an analysis to determine if they should proceed into product development.

Next, you move into the Design stage, according to Giannis Psaroudakis, where you can evaluate your hypotheses through early user studies or rapid prototyping. This prototyping is where experimentation begins in terms of usability.

Then, you go on to the Development stage where you dive into coding or testing your actual code.

And afterward, you have the Roll-out stage, when you make sure your hypotheses still stand after launch and there’s nothing negatively affecting the quality of the final product or the customer experience.

In traditional product development, this is where you might stop. Your ideas might win, but they also might fail. And there’s no defined evaluation for where you can improve.

That’s why in product experimentation, you also have the Maximizing stage, that Hila Qu described: What can be improved? What can we evolve? What can make the customer experience frictionless, more delightful?

When I’ve looked at some of the things we’ve started with and usability testing, and then compare that to the product that ships, X months later, a lot happens in between those stages. We start with sending a prototype through usability and then we have all the different optimization tests that run after something goes live.” confirms Meg Watson.

Throughout the product development cycle, with the experimentation mindset, you are constantly exploring and validating the possibilities for new features or products by generating that feedback loop with your customers.

But perhaps more importantly, experimentation in product development means you can test deep in your stack.

Unlike client-side experimentation, with its what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, you can test what you can’t see. Product experimentation incorporates server-side testing:

You can test changes on your server side and improve the performance of your back-end systems,” Giannis Psaroudakis affirms.

If you’re running any machine learning models that give recommendations to customers, you can experiment with those, for instance.

In client-side experimentation, a variation is run through the web browser or mobile app using a visual editor and a single JavaScript line. Once the variation is proven, you can build it out by implementing a code pack.

But in server-side experimentation, the variation is coded on servers. So, it can be more resource intensive because you build up-front.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in product development client-side server-side
You can see that server-side experimentation requires that you build upfront. (Source: “Why Experiment Server-Side?” by Optimizely)

That way, you can experiment with how a product functions, like the machine learning algorithms that enables you to deliver a personalized experience.

And that’s why product experimentation has so much potential.

Learn more from these innovative organizations

When it comes to experimentation, it’s all about the customer experience.

Ultimately the goal of all this, the reason we’re doing this, is to give the customer a better experience with Stitch Fix and to make sure that it’s effortless. It’s fun. it’s delightful. And that they truly have a good experience with all of our products.

Experimentation in product development allows you to get deeper into the stack, deeper into your customer’s experience so that you are delivering the best possible solution and a delightful one at that.

For many organizations, it’s an untapped source of growth.

The gap between product and marketing teams is becoming smaller and smaller, and from a customer experience perspective, it’s blended.

The customer experience has to be consistent and compelling, and work seamlessly between the pieces that are controlled by the two teams, in order to have the customer finish that journey from a random visit or from your ads, to the point where they use the product for the first time and they know the value, they see the benefit.

WiderFunnel Product and Marketing Customer Experience
If the customer doesn’t view marketing and product as separate parts of their journey, organizations shouldn’t either.

But we need to stop siloing product and marketing.

With an experimentation mindset, organizations need to unite internally to spread those insights throughout every customer touchpoint.

That means experimenting constantly—both client-side and server-side—and sharing the insights across both marketing and product development teams.

Because your customers don’t see your landing page or your product funnel as distinct experiences. Instead, you need to focus on the entire customer journey.

What are your burning product experimentation questions? We’d love to hear them below.

Author

Lindsay Kwan

Marketing Communications Specialist

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The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

You are the catalyst for future growth.

This past September, hundreds of specialists at organizations across industry verticals flocked to #Opticon18, the largest experimentation conference in North America; and it was clear; the driving force is you—the Optimization Champion.

Experimentation as a strategy for future business evolution and innovation is happening now.

The most successful organizations are experimenting (or at least planning to!) across all customer touchpoints. Because customer experience is king.

To keep pace, you’ll need to stay on the pulse of what’s happening with experimentation: new tech and tool developments, the latest strategies for scaling experimentation, and the emerging trends that will define your business in the future.

Because your ability to adapt will lay the foundation for the radical change that is set to happen in the business world:

The next 10 years will generate an order of magnitude more change than we have seen in the last 10 years.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

In 2019, you will want to accelerate your strategy with these six experimentation trends that will pave the future of your digital customer experience:

Trend 1: The currency of business insights

Customer data, machine learning algorithms, the latest technology stack—no technological development is worth implementing if you can’t leverage that data into business insights.

Business insights are the valuable intel that allows you to experiment and evolve. To innovate and proliferate your learnings across your entire organization.

Data is the red blood of an insights-driven business—there can never be enough flowing in the veins. Look always to tap more—and more relevant—data.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

Your ability to accelerate the speed and transmission of insights across different teams is the currency of the future. Business insights will underpin the radical change we will see in the next 10 years.

Data analytics and software enable insights-driven organizations to sift through an immense amount of information to glean transferable insights.

Because this trend hinges on human intelligence: the ability to accumulate a large quantity of quality data sources and to be able to glean actionable insights. Insights that reveal something about your systems and processes, your product or services, and especially your customer:

Insights-driven businesses bring insight, not just data, into every decision, and they know exactly how to use them for greatest advantage across the entire customer life cycle. For these firms, digital insights and what they do with them are their secret weapons to disrupt your market and steal your customers.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

But more importantly, the most successful organizations will find ways to close the loop—bring insights forward and experiment with them at different touchpoints.

Insights-Driven Experimentation

The flow of insights drives your experimentation program, maximizing your organizational learning capacity.

Share the insight:

You must democratize your data and insights so anyone in the organization can harness them for an improved customer experience.

At Uber, for instance, 50% of their employees have access to an insights database which helps to inform their decision making on a daily basis, according to the Forrester report.

Because information is power.

There are many things that you need to get right to create internal alignment and scale insights across the enterprise. However the most important is having the executive team demanding this approach and a top-down strategy guiding the synchronization of teams around a common practice.

But this is a challenge for any traditional, non-agile organization.

In fact, Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler and James McCormick predict that insights-driven businesses will grow eight times faster than the projected 3.5% global GDP Growth. More granularly, their predictions include that insights-driven public companies will grow 27% annually and startups will grow 40%.

But this might not be possible without the top-level support of changed processes and systems.

What processes and protocol can you document to ensure that business insights are spread throughout your organization?

A Marketer’s take on this trend

The dissemination of insights is crucial if you really want to move your organization forward. The learnings you generate from experimentation can’t live in a single team – particularly those insights about your customer’s emotional states and contexts. Because these insights can most likely be applied and tested at many touch points throughout your business.

Now is the time to figure out what systems you need in place to ensure the right people have access to insights from data, experimentation, and customer research. This may be as simple as an experiment insights archive, or it may require a more intentional dissemination effort.

Natasha Wahid

Marketing Lead

Resources to get you started…

Trend 2: The cross-organizational experimentation mindset

Thomas Edison would be thrilled to be alive today, if he could see the stuff that is really going on, the stuff that you are all doing.

It’s not a surprise that Forrester analysts predict unprecedented growth for insights-driven businesses in the next decade. Experimentation refines ideas into validated insights, evolving the digital customer experience.

And with more organizations adopting the experimentation mindset of testing and learning across every department, the ability to generate and leverage business insights increases exponentially.

In the next 10 years, we will see widespread adoption of experimentation across all touch points to validate all marketing activity and focus our limited time and resources on the high-impact areas.

Nick So

Director of Strategy

The future of the digital customer experience is through experimentation. In the next 10 years, you will see more and more organizations experimenting across every customer touchpoint, in order to optimize their entire journey.

Your first step is to de-silo experimentation in your organization. Instead of relegating experimentation as a side-strategy, organizations will need to implement the structures and processes to enable experimentation in every team.

To become a true experimentation organization, you need scale and scope. Scale is about running many experiments and scope is about getting all groups across an organization to participate in experiments.

The most successful organizations are already on board with cross-organizational experimentation. According to Stefan Thomke, at organizations like P&G, Uber, Airbnb, or Bing, experimentation is going on at all times.

[At Bing, at] any point in time, there’s billions and trillions of variations,” explains Stefan Thomke. “And by the way, the success rate at Bing, alone, is only 10-20% of what they try.

WiderFunnel High Velocity Experimentation Examples

Real-world examples of experimentation at scale

The most successful organizations are experimenting at a high velocity, gathering insights from both winning and losing variations.

Share the insight:

And despite a low win-rate, these organizations are investing in experimentation as their cross-organizational strategy. Because it’s not about winning or losing — that’s thinking too small, too immediate.

That’s because experimentation competency across their organization is their competitive advantage. They are testing large-scale and high-velocity because they involve every team, every department. Experimentation is all about gathering business insights.

At its peak maturity, experimentation is a cultural mindset that spans across organizational departments, marketing channels, and throughout executive management.

So where do you get started? We’ve got it figured out.

The 5 pillars of an effective experimentation program

Cross-organization experimentation requires a scaling strategy. It requires focused intention, a multi-pronged approach to your process, your metrics, your culture, your expertise, and your tech stack.

Based on years of analysis of experimentation programs, and through surveying Optimization Champions at organizations all over North America in “State of Experimentation Maturity 2018” report, we’ve identified what makes the most successful programs gain traction across departments, across activities.

And it’s called the PACET framework.

The PACET Framework

WiderFunnel PACET framework for scaling experimentation

WiderFunnel’s PACET Framework

By focusing on the five core pillars of process, accountability, culture, expertise, and technology, you can scale and mature your experimentation program.

Share the insight:

Our findings informed WiderFunnel’s framework: PACET. And it includes these five pillars:

Process

This pillar includes an organization’s experimentation protocol and methodology, process for ideation and prioritization, experiment design, and measurement of success.

Accountability

The most mature organizations keep process and accountability at the core of their experimentation strategy, fuelling how experiments are developed, and results are analyzed, understood, and leveraged.

Culture

Culture is crucial when defining experimentation maturity: Does your organization celebrate testing and learning? Are people encouraged to try (and fail) and try again?

This pillar includes organizational buy-in for experimentation, program support from the C-level, and cross-team participation in an experimentation program.

Expertise

An experimentation program needs expertise and resources. The amount of time and full-time team members dedicated to experimentation is reflective of an organization’s maturity.

This pillar includes people and skill sets: strategists, analysts, designers, developers, project managers, product owners, third-party partners, as well as hours dedicated to experimentation.

Technology

Experimentation maturity requires a well-rounded technology stack. Experimentation and personalization tools, visitor engagement tools, customer data tools, project management tools. Mature organizations have the right tools in place to ensure they can develop the best possible hypotheses and have reliable data.

Your first step is to evaluate how developed each of these core pillars are within your organization, so you can set your sights on your future growth.

Trend 3: Empowered product experimentation

Experimentation has become the product. Your product is the culmination of user feedback and quantitative data tied to your business goals. And experimentation is the engine that brings it all together to validate the way forward.

Just as Stefan Thomke mentioned, your experimentation program’s scale and scope are essential for driving your future growth. If you are considering how to grow your program, empowered product experimentation should be your next step.

There are numerous untapped opportunities:

Server-side experimentation has really opened up what is possible with product experimentation. Allowing development teams to build experimentation directly into their sprints and workflows,” clarifies Thomas Davis, Senior Web Developer at WiderFunnel.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in Product Development Cycle

The product lifecycle

You can experiment deeper into your stack with product experimentation, including with machine learning algorithms, log-in states, and more.

Share the insight:

But besides the ability to experiment throughout the development lifecycle, you also have the opportunity to maximize your digital customer experience by building off the value that is already created.

Successful product managers create an experience that delights, an experience that meets the customer’s emotional needs and states in the context of your product. And continuous and iterative experimentation makes certain that you are moving toward this end goal.

You can heighten the positive emotions that your customer experiences, and minimize the friction points to make it more sticky.

And that experimentation mindset will be critical to ensuring the longevity of your product in the marketplace.

A Developer’s take on the trend

Nothing is more frustrating than building out a fully integrated feature that has a negative effect on the business. Product experimentation stops developers wasting time building out fully polished features that will just be rolled back.

Thomas Davis

Senior Web Developer

Trend 4: The evolution of the Digital Experience Stack

Delivering exceptional customer experiences at scale is high-pressure for the disruptive business leader. It’s a fast-paced market and they know they have to keep up.

Marketing is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ discipline,” explains Sergiy Bondarenko, Marketing Operations Analyst at WiderFunnel.

Marketers have to be experts in copywriting, sales, design, psychology, web technology, app technology, SEO, paid traffic acquisition and demand generation, social media, public relations, etc.

Naturally, there isn’t a single person who can excel in all these disciplines. This is where many tool vendors come in, promising to ‘fill gaps’, and marketers fall into the trap of thinking a tool can replace skills.

When it comes to technology, gone are the days of finding that traditional one-tool solution. These legacy suites evolve slowly, delivering mediocre results across the board. At that pace, how could you ever stand out amongst your competitors?

Insights-driven businesses are 137% more likely to differentiate with data and analytics.

But implementing new tools and technologies without an overarching martech strategy will lead to poor results as well.

Since 2007, we have gone from ~150 martech vendors to over ~7,000 in 2018. Unsurprisingly, marketers are now suffering from the ‘shiny object’ syndrome—every new tool promises to solve every problem there is, and if it’s trendy, then it’s almost an obligation to work it into the existing workflow—or risk being seen as a laggard.

Sergiy Bondarenko

Marketing Operations Analyst

The new Digital Experience Stack is an innovative solution, particularly for those disruptive businesses that want the best of the tech worlds.

WiderFunnel The Digital Experience Stack DXS
Some of the best-in-class tools have partnered to create The Digital Experience Stack (DXS). Source: Optimizely.

And it ensures you have the well-rounded technology stack to empower your organization’s experimentation at scale.

If you have 100 tools that are fragmented, don’t have an open API, and are sparsely used, then you have a problem on your hands,” states Sergiy Bondarenko.

Firstly, team productivity and happiness will suffer. This will eventually trickle down into underperforming operational metrics and will have a negative impact on the KPIs.

A bloated martech stack also means a bloated budget, and you never want to have a bloated marketing budget—it creates tension and a lack of trust with organizational leaders like the CEO and CFO.

And no organization wants that.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

The digital experience stack is a great approach that enables businesses to work with a diverse range of best-in-class technologies, and enables technology companies to continue to focus on their area of expertise. Collaboration, not competition, to better support the industry as a whole.

James Flory

Senior Experimentation Strategist

Trend 5: The re-framing of personalization

Experimentation ensures that businesses are innovating and evolving. But, it doesn’t mean that it is a separate strategy. It is the underpinning methodology of getting any and every strategy right.

Personalization is just one technique within the methodology of experimentation.

It’s not one or the other.

So, your experimentation team shouldn’t be siloed from your personalization efforts.

We’ve seen a lot of hype around personalization in recent years, but many organizations are only aspiring to the level where they can deliver individualized experiences to their customers. That’s the 1:1 experiences that many tools claim to provide.

WiderFunnel Marketing Personalization
Providing a more customized user experience often starts with segmenting your audience, but any personalization tactic needs to be validated through experimentation.

But, as Mike St. Laurent, Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead points out: “Most companies do not have the necessary data collection and segmentation capabilities in place to even be thinking about personalization as a strategy.

2019 will be the year of laying the technical groundwork so that companies have the tools they need to test relevant customer experiences effectively.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

You also need to keep in mind that any tactic needs to be proven; not every implementation of personalization will deliver results.

If you have an idea on how to leverage personalization in your strategy, validate your hypotheses through experimentation.

The end goal is to create digital experiences that are highly relevant to the customer in your business context. But you should only want that as a means of generating a higher customer lifetime value.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

Creating relevant experiences can be an effective way to improve conversions, but companies are realizing they shouldn’t be personalizing just to say they are doing it.

Companies are starting to understand that just because something is “personalized” doesn’t mean it’s more effective. A personalized experience needs to be tested the same as any other change to a digital experience.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

Get well-versed on this topic…

Trend 6: True customer empathy

Businesses have long been trying to solve their customer’s pain points. But what has been missing from the conversation is true customer empathy.

Because you don’t want your customer to only have their problem solved. You want them to feel an affiliation with your brand and with your experience. You want them to be delighted.

widerfunnel customer delight
Are you creating delight for the individuals who are your customers?

True customer empathy means understanding your customer’s full spectrum of emotions within your experience: knowing what emotions they feel when their expectations are met and how they feel when their expectations are not met.

In the digital world, customers can access your brand on many touch points: social media, email newsletters, your website. All of which offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your customers.

Where are the points of friction and where are the points of delight in your experience?

Unfortunately, at least one unintended bad customer experience is part and parcel of any new launch; companies simply can’t predetermine how every part of their customers’ experience is impacted by design or development decisions made during the feature development process.

A crucial post-launch practice at FullStory is something we call ‘game film‘—a process where we auto-play sessions of users interacting with the new feature and note down how many bad experiences they encounter.

Whether through game film or some other practice, the point is that everyone should have a built-in mechanism to monitor these empathy-inducing moments of frustration for customers.

Jordan Woods

Marketing at FullStory

True customer empathy leads to an understanding of how you can maximize and minimize the feelings your customer experiences at these different points within your experience, so that your brand can align more closely with your customer’s emotional needs and states.

In 2005, when Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, 80% of companies stated that they were customer centric. That sounds promising until you consider their customers’ response: Only 8% of customers agreed.

Clearly, there is a disconnect.

So, how can you get deeper than demographics to not only understand your customer, but to anticipate their emotional response? How can your organization become genuinely empathetic to their customers?

Start by listening to your customers at every touchpoint.

Marketing Trends Customer Journey
The customer experience is a holistic journey across multiple touchpoints. Having empathy for your customer’s emotional needs and states is crucial for making their experience delightful.

Live chat. Social media listening. Customer surveys. These methods are a starting point. But true customer empathy only comes from deep inquiry and the thick data that results:

Research techniques — such as contextual inquiry, diary studies, ethnographic research and others — can generate thick data that allows you to understand your customer’s emotional needs.

True customer empathy is also a rich source of hypothesis ideation. You can validate this deep understanding of your customer through experimentation to see if your hypotheses stand true.

A UX Researcher’s take on the trend

People will always be the centre of any business. Understanding those people — your users — and their circumstances will help you generate powerful hypotheses. But the key is to take these insights forward through each of your experiments to drive and scale a sophisticated experimentation program.

Kim Quach

UX Research Specialist

Remember what you do now counts.

Your leadership, your strategies, your experiments are driving your organization into the future. What you do now accelerates the growth of your company.

It takes just one person to lead the change. The more you embrace the trends and technologies of the future, the more ready you are to embrace the pace of change.

But know that you don’t have to bear the burden alone.

Build the right insights partnerships – don’t go it alone. You probably won’t own all the data, expertise, or technology. We expect most companies to work with a wide variety of insights services partners.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

You can still lead the charge.

As the more determined you are to push the boundaries of how your organization operates, the more likely you can evolve with the rapid growth that your organization can facilitate through experimentation.

But it’s not just about you and your organization—it’s about your organization’s purpose, your vision—the reason why behind your work.

And that is your customers.

Because a delightful digital experience is how your brand stays relevant—now and in the next decade.

What trends stand out as most important to your future growth? Let’s start a conversation in the comment section below.

Author

Lindsay Kwan

Marketing Communications Specialist

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