Creating a Culture of Continuous Website Improvement

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Ideas and Strategies for Real-Time Personalization
Creating a Culture of Continuous Website Improvement

March 1, 2016 by

If you know a thing or two about software development, you are probably familiar with the agile development methodology. Instead of analyzing, designing, coding, and testing each new project in separate stages from start to finish, agile developers complete these steps concurrently – breaking each project into small chunks to rapidly deliver working software. This allows them to test early, discover problems, and react faster.

Agile development is the new norm: 67% of organizations surveyed by TechBeacon last year said that they were “pure agile” or “leaning toward agile.”

Most marketers these days have adopted a culture of continuous iteration too – they’re experimenting, failing quickly, and adapting. Your website is no different, particularly if you are working to personalize it to different visitor segments or at the individual level. In this case, you can’t just develop one campaign at a time and wait to see if it works. Instead, you must develop a process where you are always evaluating and refining current campaigns, testing new ones, and removing those that don’t work or become outdated.

Personalization is an ongoing process, not a one-time problem solver

As you’re improving your website, you probably have a particular goals in mind – such as increasing your conversion rate or your average order size. Once you’ve accomplished a specific goal you can address other areas of conversion or engagement on your site, and even continue to improve upon your original goals. Small improvements ultimately compound into larger ones that can have a sizable impact on your bottom line. We find that our most successful clients are continuing to work toward greater improvements over time. They don’t view personalization as a single end to a single problem.

Creating a series of benchmarks can keep you striving toward success. For example, your Q1 goal could be to get to a 5% increase in average order size, Q2 another 4%, etc. This approach will help you break up your goals into manageable chunks, creating a crawl, walk, run mentality in your organization.

Involve multiple people and teams in the process

When only one person is thinking about and implementing website personalization campaigns, that person won’t likely have the time or the support needed to continuously improve. The most successful personalized websites involve many members of the marketing team (not just web development), as well as product, customer success, and sales team members where appropriate. Getting many perspectives helps to ensure a higher quality experience for visitors.

This type of involvement doesn’t happen overnight: start with one or two champions from other departments and build out the team as you start to see the benefits.

What does continuous website improvement actually look like?

Truthfully, it can be difficult to incorporate continuous iteration into your regular workflow. You can start by blocking out an hour each week to iterate on current campaigns and an hour to plan new ones. The exact number of campaigns will differ depending on the company’s needs and goals, but through this process you should reach something that looks a little like this graph below with about 5 new campaigns added each month and a couple discarded each month as well:

Example: Continuous Website Improvement at Work

continuous website improvement

1.     Add new campaigns

You should always be trying new tactics as you develop new content, products, features, etc. Are you successfully engaging the right audiences on your website? Does the language and imagery on your site resonate with these audiences? Is there a new segment your company wants to better engage and convert? These are the questions that you should be asking as you think about new campaigns.

It’s important to note that there is no right answer for the number of new campaigns and frequency of adding them. This will vary depending on the company, industry, number of segments, level of algorithmic versus rule-based personalization, and other variables.

2.     Refine a few

Take a look at what you launched last week, last month, and last year. Are all the campaigns working? Could they work better if they were improved? Could you optimize your rules or algorithms or incorporate new creative? Don’t just set a campaign and forget it: test and tweak it from time to time until you see improvement, and then keep coming back to it to ensure it still works.

3.     Discard a few

What worked in the past might not still work. Maybe that campaign that you tweaked to perfection several months ago finally ran its course. If you’re not seeing any gain from a campaign and all your adjustments aren’t helping, you should let it go. Also, messaging can become outdated. Monitor your campaigns to ensure they’re on-message and on-brand. Toss, replace or update them once they’re not.

4. Backbone campaigns

Keep in mind that constant iteration doesn’t mean that you always need to be throwing out or refining all of your campaigns. Many of our clients have “backbone campaigns” that they create, iterate on one or twice and then let run continuously. These campaigns often dependably drive results while you are iterating in other areas. You need to find the right mix that works for you and your organization.

Wrap-Up

Personalizing your website with a continuous improvement mentality is easiest if you have a platform that allows you to quickly iterate on your campaigns. You can’t be constantly iterating if it takes you too long to develop, launch and measure the results of each new campaign. Just as with agile development, making incremental gains and “failing fast” are key tenets of continuous website improvement.

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