When marketers are tasked by their company leaders to activate an optimization strategy within their organization, they may not realize the hurdles and challenges that are likely to come their way in the process and the kinds of resources they’ll need to successfully optimize their company’s website(s).
Any great optimization strategy starts by answering these 3 basic questions:
- What optimization tool will you use?
- What are your overall goals for both short and long term?
- How will you measure success? (you're only as good as your data)
But, after answering these questions, many marketing professionals simply dive right in with testing and optimization with little to no thought about the potential roadblocks they’ll almost surely encounter.
By not planning ahead on how to overcome these common challenges, you run the risk of falling behind deadlines, draining your resources, missing your goals and KPIs, and drawing criticism and questions from your leadership team when it comes time to report on performance.
An optimization agency will thoughtfully walk you through all of these issues and guide you to the best solutions, but it helps to know ahead of time some of the more common roadblocks you’ll face along the way so that you can be better prepared to overcome them and successfully optimize your website for higher conversions and revenue growth.
ROADBLOCK #1: Lack of Resources
You have been tasked with optimization and maybe personalization for the whole of your website. You will need design, development, and analytics help to pull this off. Oftentimes, the time, effort, and resources that go into optimization is not apparent until you begin the process of actually optimizing the site.
Here’s an example of when a lack of resources might derail your optimization strategy… Let’s say you start with your first experiment. You want to serve three different hero images to your users based on segments you’ve defined (maybe one for an older demographic, one based on location, or one based on previous interactions with your site). To pull this off, you will obviously need three original creatives from your design team. You will need your development team to plug them into the optimization tool you’ve chosen and adjust for any sizing issues. Before taking these experiences live on your website, you will then need to QA as a user from each one of those segments to assure you experience is working. Then you will need to setup goals inside your experience.
Clearly, it takes multiple people and steps to pull of one successful optimization experiment, and all too often companies don’t realize just how much bandwidth their team needs to budget for to make meaningful experiences that actually get results and move the business forward.
And, as with most things, the more you put into it, the more you get out. So, to increase the percentage of traffic you’d like to convert, you’ll have to show them highly optimized, personalized experiences to encourage action and launch that many more optimized campaigns to get the results you want.
ROADBLOCK #2: Data & Analytics
The road block here lies in how you slice your data to build your optimization and personalization campaigns and show your users highly relevant, highly targeted personalized experiences that they’ll be more likely to engage with your website and take the desired action (like making a purchase, booking a trip, enrolling in a course, signing up for a newsletter or email, downloading your content, etc.).
To build truly personalized experiences through optimization and testing, you will need to first determine how large or how small your audiences are for each of the experiences you want to optimize. So, for example, if you are doing something like redesigning your checkout funnel, you of course want all of your users to see this experience. But, if you are retargeting specific users for a product they may have already engaged with, this experience will likely be shown to a smaller audience.
At any given time if you are running 2-5 personalized campaigns/experiences, you will likely be hitting 5-15% of your traffic. To gain more personalization, you will need to run more experiences. When you or your analytics team is looking at your user data, you must look at it through a personalization lens. This mean asking questions like: Where are the biggest areas of improvement for personalization? What is the data saying about your largest segments?
ROADBLOCK #3: Lack of Strategy
When it comes to optimizing, testing, and personalizing your website, you must have a rigorous process in place to hypothesize, test, and validate at every step. For example, when you start optimizing, you want to address and account for problems and also identify areas where you’ve already seen success and use this knowledge to inform your strategy going forward. This data will help you to form a hypothesis about what will or won’t work for your site, but you also want to be able to continuously test and challenge this hypothesis as you optimize, re-adjusting your baseline with your current experiment’s winners. Our philosophy is to always to optimizing, which means you will constantly be testing and continuing to improve upon your existing experiences in real time based on results and what the data shows.*
*(Of course, depending on the optimization tool you use, there will be various metrics you are given that will determine the success of your experiences. Mainly, you want to make sure that you have a large enough audience to create statistical significance.)
ROADBLOCK #4: Fragmented Marketing Stack
A “fragmented marketing stack” refers to the numerous out-of-the-box solutions or tools that do a great job at the specific task they were designed for, but that operate on their own islands or silos, contributing very little data to your overall optimization strategy. An example of this would be chat bots or live chat. If you have a third-party system measuring and recording the data they deem ‘valuable,’ then it’s up to you to examine and determine how this information can help your optimization strategy.
Anything that operates as a third party on your website that isn’t tied directly back into your main data source and your KPI’s can be considered part of the fragmented marketing stack. How can we get better at combining all this data to create a view of how these separate islands are contributing to the greater good? Well we can start by using a KPI for each of the segments that also aligns with the KPIs we are using to measure overall success.
OVERCOMING THESE ROADBLOCKS
When it comes to launching a successful optimization strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but there is a way to put your best foot forward and ensure that you’re efforts will get real, meaningful results for your company. When you understand clearly what you are lacking or where your weaknesses are, you can start to fill in the pieces with the resources that will contribute to your overall roadmap. It’s also important to assess your strategic roadmap as you continue to learn. Things that you may have deemed of the upmost strategic importance Q1 may take a backseat to newly released initiatives. Being agile and continuously optimizing will help you to keep your pipe full and your optimization roadmap on track.
One last bit of advice is to not bite off more than you can chew. If you don’t have the resources to run five experiments a month, don’t set a goal for yourself that high. Start small and begin to learn, and from there you can implement resources and processes as you go. It is very exciting to run your first “big” optimization experiment and when you start to see all those positive KPI’s roll in you can get ahead of yourself. Stick to what you feel comfortable with, and if you want to do more you can always bring in outside resources who are experienced with optimization and can provide creative solutions for your roadblocks.
Have questions about the best practices around optimizing your travel website and avoiding these roadblocks? I'd love to help or get your feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org