Time and time again, I see executives across organizations striving to balance the creative and less measurable components of their jobs with the necessary and reliable business wins. This often boils down to a disconnect between long term, slow burn strategies that don’t necessarily see an immediate ROI, and quick wins for immediate impact. When you’re the exec responsible for results, it’s tempting to plug along with what you know will work. But if you do that, you’re also leaving behind the opportunity for much bigger wins and more innovative solutions. You also leave valuable data on the table. A/B and multivariate testing everything on your docket is not just the best, but the only way to optimize your business and get the results you want.
That’s why I advocate so strongly to develop and foster a culture of testing. It’s the only way to have it both ways. Sometimes you’re going to have a fantastically wrong hypothesis, but if you’re testing all of your “out there” ideas, you still end up optimizing. I’ve been a CEO for a long time, and at SiteSpect I not only encourage our team to experiment, but I also get to see that impact on our clients.
When You Test Ideas There are No Bad Ideas
Imagine you lead a retail business with a strong ecommerce component. Your business is growing steadily, and each department collaborates to create a reliable digital customer experience. You might even implement some basic tests, but these remain separate from your daily work. Your site will probably continue to grow, and continue to do well. Or you might stagnate, see a downturn. If that happens, how will you know what might have caused the change? With a culture where you A/B test everything, you would have data and insight into the effect of every part of your customer experience.
We recently worked with Webroot, who is a really great example of adopting and running with a culture of experimentation. They did really incredible reporting on site speed both before and after SiteSpect implementation, so the impact of their program is clear. They saw all of their metrics improve and they then increased their testing volume from one test per quarter to five tests per month. That’s more than an improvement in productivity — it’s a culture shift.
Using Data to Inform Your Business Decisions
Of course, once you start trying out all of your ideas you’re bound to see some duds. Not every hunch will have the data to back it up, but every hunch will have data. Creating a culture of experimentation at your organization means that having a wrong hypothesis is just one part of a bigger picture — and still a business win.
Take for instance one of our clients who fully embraces the testing philosophy. One of their notable tests (of many), was based off of a really sound hypothesis: that customers would have a better experience if the website’s search bar was more prominent. The data said otherwise, and the control version won out. But, because they tested and relied on the data, they didn’t lose anything. And their overall revenue? Steadily improving.
The same organization later came up with an innovative way to reduce costs on product images. They tested the idea to ensure the new images wouldn’t impact conversions, but they improved by 15%. They are constantly coming up with innovative solutions to problems, and they have the confidence of accurate data behind their decisions. Their overall ROI for experimentation is off the charts.
Across the Organization
A lot of the experimentation discussion happens in the context of marketing. But as these examples demonstrate, it’s important to adopt that mindset across the organization. In the cases above, testing with SiteSpect allowed site performance to improve by seconds, and uncovered a low performing search algorithm — these are just two examples out of many. Fostering this culture in your organization can only lead to bigger wins.
Even more importantly, developing a culture of experimentation within your organization encourages your teams to innovate. With the risk of failure well mitigated (if not eliminated) by a good testing methodology, you foster the kind of creative and cutting edge thinking that makes your business soar.