In the media, in the many articles everyone reads on linked, twitter and co, even in those software vendors presentations (cough), we keep hearing about the many challenges, the many hills one has to climb to reach the peak of customer experience and ultimately convert prospects into loyal customers.
The multiplicity of devices has always been a "popular" challenge since the first iPhone release. As time goes, the story becomes stronger. Computer, mobile, tablet, console, smartTV, VR, IOT with smart home devices down to your electric appliance and your thermostat. According to Intel in this infographic, by 2020, it will culminate to 26 devices.
The multiplicity of personas to market, GenX, Millenials, GenY, now Gen Alpha, add to the complexity as well. Of course, they are all very different from one another and evolve in different digital spheres, e.g.: facebook for the GenX and Snapchat for the millennial though by the time you read this article, they might have moved on to a more trendy social network.
The consequence of this is a plethora of different touch points, numerous social networks, your website, your blog, your newsletter, your apps, your store, etc, each of them with different communication channels you can choose from, SMS, in-app, push notification, emails, etc.
Add to this the fact that every customer can be at a very different stage in his/her purchase journey and should be again marketed very differently depending whether he/she is at beginning or the end of his/her research, whether he/she is looking at a problem or for a solution for example (awareness vs consideration).
But don’t you worry, you have a broad choice of technologies to help you with this complexity and those multiple problems.
5,381 to be exact, according to Chiefmartec, plenty of options to solve plenty of challenges…
Now so far I did like those media and those articles, I made the problem big and hairy. Reality is... well... it’s actually big and hairy... if you want to climb the Everest.
But climbing Mount Kosciuszko (even after 4 years in Australia, I still need to look twice to make sure I write it correctly) or the Mont Blanc in France (I like the French simplicity here, they see a big white peak, they call it Mont Blanc=White mount) is a much more reasonable and achievable goal.
Getting started will make it tangible and real. It’s not going to be some vapourware concepts anymore. You’ll try, you’ll fail, learn and get it right the next time.
Now I hope you still have few more minutes ahead of you, I’ll now give you some pointers around Strategy, People and Technology.
Be clear on your goals. Start by defining what is a successful conversion. If you’re an online retailer, it might be a transaction, if you’re an energy company, it might be a successful customer renewal or a new customer subscription, etc.
Understand the shape and the different stages of your conversion funnel from awareness to consideration all the way through to conversion. There are few good reads on the topic but one that I especially liked is “Convert!” from Ben Hunt. It’s comprehensive, practical and goes into the right level of details to get your hands dirty right away. The author is introducing the concept of “awareness ladder” illustrating how to guide customers through the different stages leading them to a successful conversion.
Understand what your customers are doing, you can’t optimise anything if you're blind, hence a robust digital analytics implementation across your existing digital properties should be one of the first thing to do. From there, you’ll be able to understand where are you biggest gaps in your funnel from which your customers are falling through.
If for example, you discover you have an awareness problem, meaning that nobody is aware that you have a great product solving a particular problem, you can certainly invest in paid search and try to “steal” traffic from more established competitors but if you don’t have the right content to keep them in your funnel down to the end conversion, they’ll just exit sooner or later and you’d just have wasted money.
Hence having a content strategy is one of those longer term investment that you should also prioritise.
Building valuable content to feed your customers with the right information at the right stage of their purchasing journey is key to have them going down your funnel. Again here, Ben Hunt - Convert!’s book has some chapter dedicated on SEO and the importance of aligning it with multiple landing pages answering the customer’s multiple questions at the different stage of their purchasing journey. From the moment where they are still inquiring about a problem to the moment where they are looking for the best solution. Another great read on the topic, less in the weeds and a bit more inspirational, is “top of mind” from John Hall where he’s sharing his philosophy of content marketing and beyond how to build long lasting and genuine business relationships.
Now, when building variations/tests for design or paths, think about what the end consumer experience is going to be like. Is it going to be boring, conventional, positively surprising? you certainly cannot afford (you actually might but most won't) to test whatever crazy design/idea your team can come up with but if you're in a highly competitive environment, then breaking the script and surprise your customer might just be what you need to differentiate, to keep their attention and to keep the customers moving to the next step of your funnel. Again here, I'd recommend another good book that covers that point very well, The power of moments, that goes through the principles for manufacturing those extraordinary "moments" that will impact people. It's not specifically related to conversion funnel optimisation and more about general principles that you can apply in everything you do, professionally and personally actually.
Last one on Strategy: take it one step at a time and don’t bite more than you can chew. Content can be built progressively to map out your customer journey and there’s a lot of affordable or even free resources for you to get started.
Additionally, don't go MVT (Multi-Variate Testing) all over your site at the beginning. Keep in mind that to determine what works and what doesn't, you need to make incremental and well identified changes so that you can relate the performance's delta back to it.
"Get some help”. Optimisation requires multiple skills across implementation, content marketing, SEO, testing and personalisation, etc. You need partners to guide you through that journey, most likely at least 2 partners, a technology one and an agency to help you with the operationalisation and the strategy.
However, I wouldn’t advice to fully outsource that program and let go of the governance of such a critical program for your business. Instead, I’d suggest hiring internal skills that can scale and be supported by an external agency. After all, who knows best your business and you customers if not you?
You also don’t want to be depending on a 3d party for every test you’re running.
That brings me to my second point on people: data driven optimisation and testing should become a culture within your marketing department. Why second guessing when you can rely on data? I’ll be referring here to the overused but still very inspiring Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) example where Giles Richardson, Head of analytics at RBS, developed a program, very much like music DJs, putting the emphasis on constant reinvention and testing of new content, empowering as many frontline staff as possible to create new tests and democratising data insights for them.
Another common theme and cultural mindset preached by every customer focused professional is customer centricity. This is quite a broad term that has many intricate meanings but in the context of optimisation, being able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes will be essential in communicating at the right level with him/her.
Finally, communicating and marketing internally your successes will be key in getting execs buy-in to go further on your optimisation journey.
I am not going to advocate for one software vendor or the other here. The only thing I’d advice you is to look at digital marketing platforms as opposed to point solutions. I already hear you saying that I am biased because I work for a digital marketing platform vendor but if I do it’s because I believe that this is the only way forward.
You cannot waste your best people’s time and effort on an integration project leading to a Frankenstein type of platform that will cost you a fortune to maintain and evolve along the ever changing digital ecosystem. One typical example when picking up your digital analytics tool is the "actionability" of the insights you gather. if you're not able to personalise on a dime based on the various segments that you'll be surfacing from your analytics, then it's like building an engine without transmission, pointless.
"your business strategy’s output is not an integrated digital marketing platform You need to have them working on executing your business strategy and your business strategy’s output is not an integrated digital marketing platform, it’s growing your business, crush the competition and make a difference for your customers.
Finally, don’t spend 1-2 years evaluating all the platforms on the market to pick up the one that meets 100% of your criteria. Certainly, you need to validate your mandatory requirements against the platform’s capabilities but ultimately the level of partnership you’ll get with the software vendor or partner will be far more impactful than few more features that you might or might not use in 2-3 years time.