We are, in essence, in the age of the customer. Today’s digital commerce visitors have never been savvier: they are knowledgeable, empowered and increasingly less loyal.

Further, an extraordinarily competitive online commerce landscape ensures they possess a sense of power previous generations of consumers have not been accustomed to.

Here at HiConversion, we recently hosted our latest webinar, which focused on the strategic value of Continuous Optimization.

One of our keynote speakers, Forrester Research Inc. senior analyst James McCormick, unearthed an amusing but salient analogy.

He likened the newly resurgent web consumer to that of King Henry VIII, the infamous ruler of England from 1509 to 1547.

“No matter how his relationships with his wives went,” Mr McCormick told the audience, “he was quite happy to dispose of them if they did not meet his expectations. And what has given digital shoppers (that type of) power in this so-called age of the customer? One word: digital.”

Indeed, it is the growth of digital commerce that has fostered an environment in which consumers have developed a sense of self-awareness ensuring they are increasingly comfortable engaging with multiple brands in any one product line.

Additionally, Mr McCormick referenced Forrester’s own statistics indicating that on a per-buyer basis, eCommerce spending is increasing overall.

To exploit this growth, organizations such as Fitbit, Volvo, Mercedes Benz and Nike are investing in sensor-based technology and augmenting product lines via this technology to better engage with and understand their customers.

Put simply, we must seek to learn from every moment of engagement we have with every customer on every device.

This assertion brings us to the relatively simple, yet powerful concept of Continuous Optimization.

WHAT IS CONTINUOUS OPTIMIZATION?

Mr McCormick defined Continuous Optimization as an analytics-driven strategy that continuously leverages every opportunity we have to evolve customer understanding in order to optimize each digital engagement.

It is a sign of continuous learning and also involves the process of optimizing the next engagement we have with the customer.

And from Mr McCormick’s perspective, the ideal continuous optimization state contains four elements, all of which we should seek to continuously engage.

They are:

  • Machine-based/Algorithmic-based targeting
  • AB & Multivariate testing
  • Recommendations
  • Rules-based targeting

Segmentation forms the basis for the rest of the optimization tactics we have. It is crucial in facilitating this that you get the right offer (or the right ad) in front of your customers.

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CUSTOMER LIFECYCLES

Mr McCormick spoke in some detail about approaching this process from a Customer lifecycle perspective.

Firstly, which part of the customer lifecycle is applicable?

Optimization techniques are decisive in capturing and analyzing the moment your customers are starting to become aware of your brand and investigate it. They are also essential in the explore phase, the conversion and buy phase and, finally, through to existing customers within the engagement phase.

The imperative then is to plug all of the gaps and make certain we continually optimize through the lifecycle.

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In summary, when the customer is looking to understand more, we need to apply optimization techniques across the entire range of radar channels we have.

THE CHALLENGE

A key challenge from a continuous optimization dimension is to understand what 100% of interactions look like on a day-to-day basis.

In line with this, here are the four dimensions of Continuous Optimization as detailed in our webinar. Here are some of the challenges associated with those:

  • Use of Optimization techniques

Heavily focused on A/B testing, however there has been limited integration with analytics systems, unsophisticated segmentation and a lack of frequency.

  • Proportion of channels optimized

We are all obsessed with web right now because it is the most mature digital channel. But we can tend to neglect mobile apps somewhat. Mobile and tablet are a growing part of digital commerce and we must seek to optimize them.

  • Optimization coverage across customer life cycle

We are also obsessed with the upper part of the funnel in terms of traffic and then converting them when they land on our site. As marketers, we might not be doing enough to use customer insights to better engage with our services.

  • Proportion of engagements optimized

There can be poor visibility on engagement levels from a marketer’s viewpoint. Most can only guess which proportion of their customer’s engagements are being optimized. According to Mr McCormick, only about 10-15 per cent are engaged so far.

A SUCCESS STORY

A recent successful example of optimization discussed by Mr McCormick was the Royal Bank of Scotland.

RBS’ optimization team grew swiftly from just two optimization specialists to 50. Further, the group accelerated their number of tests from only two to 70 per quarter.

“The team is focused on getting great testing and optimization tools and has bought in on the theory of optimization,” he noted during the webinar. “They have quickly seen a huge amount of benefits.”

Another example cited was UK retailer Shop Direct. At a very senior level, they clearly grasp the concept that providing customers with great online experiences delivers a key strategic advantage.

Shop Direct is now initiating 60-plus tests a month, including A/B and MVT. They retain a culture that emphasizes a “fail fast and learn” mantra: they are not afraid to fail, but wish to move on quickly if they do.

Subsequently, optimization tech ROI is up to 20 per cent, key acquisition conversion metrics are 6 per cent desktop, 3 per cent mobile. Cross channel engagements increased conversion levels.

Embrace Change

Continuous optimization has arrived. It is real and tangible, not some sort of pipe dream.

Here are some final tips to manage this change.

Segment: Make sure you have great segment discovery and management strategies. This should apply to all of your touch points in a standardized way.

Don’t wait, start now: Start small if you have to.

Don’t be afraid to fail: It is important culturally within the organization.

Lead: Your analytics initiative with optimization.

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