How to set up an Experience Optimization practice in-house

Below are some of the most common questions asked by the online enterprises who are really passionate and intrigued about the value that Experience Optimization practice can bring to the table but, skeptical about how to set up this practice and whether they are really equipped to walk this path or not.

  • We are trapped in day to day operational activities and have absolutely no time to identify opportunities for optimization.
  • It would have been great if we could use an optimization consulting firm to help us build our test catalog and drive our optimization initiatives.
  • We have run a few tests in the past but unfortunately, it never generated significant results for us and now, it’s difficult for us to go back to the management and shop for more budget.
  • Should we setup our Optimization team in-house or delegate to the experts who knows the drill?
  • What kind of an annual investment we are talking about if we decide to setup our own Optimization team, and is it possible to calculate the projected ROI?

In this post, we are going to answer some of these questions and provide some valuable insights with regards to, how to go about setting up your own Experience Optimization practice in-house, and prepare your team to demonstrate some interesting quick-wins to persuade the management for more investment.

  1. START BUILDING YOUR OPPORTUNITY CATALOG
    This is one of the most crucial and fundamental step whenever we talk about setting up your in-house optimization practice. It’s an iterative task and requires a lot of discipline and planning before you ask your analyst to go deep dive in to the data and find opportunities. Before you start building your opportunity catalog, it’s extremely important to have a dedicated analyst in your team who has atleast 3 years of experience in the digital domain, who understands your industry vertical, your category and most importantly, he is super passionate about bringing change instead of spending a significant % of his time doing weekly and monthly reporting. Along with this, he/she should be briefed about the online goals of the company for the ongoing/upcoming financial year, and what kind of monthly and quarterly targets the enterprise has setup.
  2. DON’T START WITH POLITICALLY SENSITIVE AREAS ON THE WEBSITE
    This is one of the big mistakes that the enterprises do whenever they start their optimization practice. You don’t need to optimize your conversion process or overhaul your shopping cart or discard your current Home Page on day 1. All these areas are the most sensitive and politically challenged areas on the website and requires a hell lot of effort to convince the management especially, if you are a pure-play online player and a significant contributor in your category. As a best practice, I would recommend starting with your assisting pages who are deeper in your site taxonomy, have a potential to impact your macro indicator(s) and get a decent % of paid and organic traffic.
  3. HIRE A REALLY SMART APPLICATION ENGINEER
    Yes, you need an extremely smart engineer who is really good in HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT, ACTIONSCRIPT and JQUERY LIBRARY. This individual would play a significant role during the test execution process, and help you setup test variations which not only abide by the browser and testing tool limitations but, also respect the usability and performance aspect.
  4. INVEST IN A NON-SOPHISTICATED TESTING PLATFORM
    You don’t need a fully-loaded testing and targeting platform to start your experience optimization journey. You don’t need the Audience Profiling and Personalisation capabilities from DAY 1. In the beginning, you can start with simple A/B tests and start building your practice on top of it. Remember that; there will be a steep learning curve in the beginning both from the tool perspective as well as from the optimization concepts point of view so; be ready to learn and don’t get bogged down by the complexity of the solution. I would recommend starting with solutions like Optimizely, Visual Web Optimizer or Maxymiser. Almost all of these solutions are pretty intuitive and demand less dependency on your IT , Marketing and Content teams.
  5. YOU NEED AN OPTIMIZATION EXPERT IN YOUR TEAM
    Having this individual in the team is of tremendous value because, he is the PATHFINDER who defines the optimization plan, provides the strategic and executive consulting services, create and optimize the test catalog, provides consulting service from usability perspective, challenge your test hypothesis and significantly contribute to the design and creative. You don’t need to hire this individual from the market if you have budgetary constraints and tough to justify this investment. The following 3 individuals in your company can fill the void i.e. Product Manager, Digital Marketing Manager and Usability Expert
  6. YOU NEED A CREATIVE EXPERT WITH STRONG USABILITY SKILLS
    This is one area where a large % of enterprises struggle. It also become a showstopper for some enterprises and kill the whole optimization momentum. I personally feel every online enterprise who wants to setup their own optimization practice should have a dedicated creative person in the team instead of leveraging a shared resource. This person should be really good in creating wire-frames, IADs, strong in the usability concepts, understand the target audience, good understanding of the industry vertical and can do an extremely good job in audience personification.
  7. START WITH 2-3 TESTS A MONTH 
    You don’t need to test each and every possible opportunity identified by your analyst. Plan out 2-3 really good tests every month, which have a higher potential to impact your micro and macro indicators. First 6 months, don’t go for MULTIVARIATE TESTS. Simply start with A/B TESTS (Test the Page Layouts, Page Elements etc.)
  8. CREATE A CORE OPTIMIZATION TEAM 
    A good optimization team comprises of Optimization Expert, Creative Designer, Usability Expert, Application Engineer, Digital Analyst and a Solution Specialist.
  9. CREATE A ROI CALCULATOR 
    This becomes quite handy to convince the management team prior to executing the testing initiatives about the potential impact they should expect on the key conversion metrics, and whether it’s really worth pursuing this idea or not.
  10. WEEKLY STAND-UP MEETS 
    Once you have a core team in place, it’s always beneficial to have a weekly stand-up meet to discuss on the new opportunities, ongoing hypothesis validation, lessons learned, identified best practices etc. 

At the end, if you struggle to set up the above team in-house, you can always engage with a niche optimization agency, who could handle end-to-end optimization initiatives for your enterprise and work in a collaborative manner with your in-house marketing and site usability team. You can engage with agencies like Nabler, Widerfunnel, Brooks Bell and Accordant.

 

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