Like any meaningful transformation, a complete website makeover doesn’t happen overnight. It takes creative vision, an unwavering commitment to the process, and the right resources. We’ve spent the last 10 years helping our clients transform their digital customer experiences into lean-mean-converting-machines. While our approach is always custom to the specific needs of each client, we’ve found a few must-have ingredients for success. We’re happy to share them with you. Here’s what you need:
A clear audience understanding, and a willingness to listen
It’s no mystery that understanding the needs and motivations of your customers is critical to designing an engaging, high-converting digital experience. Most of our client discovery sessions reveal dusty, outdated customer personas created months or even years ago (typically for the latest design iteration of a website). All too often, these personas are basic demographic representations of key audience groups, which fail to explore the broader customer journey and lack the emotional and behavioral context needed to inform optimization strategies.
It’s important to maintain and evolve your personas and customer journeys as living, breathing documents. Frequently listen to each of your audience segments. Document what you are learning through all of your customer touch points and insight channels including: behavioral analytics, session tracking, A/B testing, user testing, focus groups, surveys, and most importantly actual customer interactions with customer service.
Spend time reviewing these personas with each enhancement idea. Vet the idea with these questions in mind: How will this enhancement benefit this customer segment? What questions or concerns does it answer? Will it motivate them to take the next step in their purchase/decision process with confidence? Does it make the experience easier for them? Will it make them happy?
Maintaining a clear picture of each customer segment is critical to optimization success.
A curious and collaborative mindset
Digital transformation starts with asking a simple question: How can we make this experience better for our customers? Continuously ask this question while making improvements and voilà, you’ve got a solid foundation for ongoing optimization success.
Next, get people across your organization to ask the same question from the perspective of their respective roles. Encourage them to share their ideas and hypotheses for improvement with each other. Over time, this collaboration builds a culture of continuous improvement. Be sure to vet and prioritize the flood of ideas with customer research, and remember to take a scientific approach to validating each hypothesis with testing.
Remember to be patient. Significant cultural shifts like this don’t happen overnight. The key is to start small, share your process, and tout your wins and learnings. If you do, others will soon join to be a part of your success.
The right resources and tools
Like any challenging project, a successful digital transformation requires the right resources and tools. Assemble a cross-discipline team and dedicate at least 40% of their time to your digital transformation efforts. Remember, the speed and success of the program is directly correlated with the effort and dedication put in. We’ve seen many test and optimize programs struggle and fail due to a lack of dedicated resources, gaps in skill sets, and/or a failure to adopt and actualize their investment in technologies.
One team, one dream
Strategy – You need a leader with a vision for the future, a pulse on your target audience, and an eye for improvement. Make sure this resource is tapped into the highest level business goals, KPIs, and marketing plans, and is a strong leader and customer advocate. They should be diplomatic and assertive and have a broad understanding of the processes, skills, and technologies needed to get the job done.
Analytics – Find the folks who are passionate about customer data and not only know their way around analytics and reporting, but can deliver actionable insights and strategies with every report. Without that, you’ll just be staring at numbers.
Design – Recruit your best UX/UI designers to bring your hypothesis to life. They should be able to quickly ideate in sketches, prototypes, and wireframes and design seamlessly into your brand standards, to avoid dissonance in testing. Designers are often empathetic customer advocates and have a critical eye for identifying optimization ideas and functional improvements, so listen to them.
Engineering – This is the most common resource constraint we find, and the one most critical to building and launching tests and implementing wins (i.e. gateway to actualizing additional $$). You’ll want a skilled, willing, and eager developer to build tests and quickly push successful enhancements live. Find developers with an eye for design and interaction models, and a desire to learn new skills. More sophisticated A/B test builds can be tricky.
Project Coordination – All this cross-discipline collaboration and technical know-how requires a skilled project manager to keep things moving. Recruit a well-respected manager who can lead the team and navigate the opinions of many. They must have a passion for complex project wrangling and a mastery of rapid prototyping and testing methodologies.
The tools of the trade
In addition to a skilled, dedicated team, you’ll need the right technologies.
Disclaimer: we’ve provided an example in each category for some context, but have intentionally avoided making any specific, detailed comparisons or pros and cons lists here. There are a lot of options out there. We’d be happy to share what we’ve learned working in dozens of technologies and reveal our weapons of choice behind closed doors. Contact us to talk shop.
Primary analytics platform – A primary analytics platform must be established to properly track events and provide baseline performance data. These analytics should also be tied to key business metrics, KPIs, and tracking, and might be part of a larger centralized CDP (Customer Data Platform). i.e. Google Analytics
Session tracking and heat mapping – These tools are indispensable for not only understanding and observing user behavior, but for identifying optimization opportunities and struggle points. They are also useful for monitoring and confirming test performance and post-test implementation effectiveness. i.e. FullStory
Customer insights – You’ll also want some tools for gathering deeper qualitative insights about your customer’s preferences and motivations. These include but are not limited to: surveying tools, customer service call monitoring, user testing tools etc. i.e. UserTesting.com
Prototype and design tools – Wireframes and prototypes are critical tools for rapid iteration and design exploration. Be sure you have these in addition to your core design applications for producing web designs. i.e. Adobe XD
Project management and coordination tools – You’ll need a place to keep and track all of your project processes, communications, collaborations, and timelines. Sometimes the simple tools are best and one size might not fit all your needs. i.e. Slack + Basecamp and Trello/Jira
Willingness to learn from failures
It’s extremely important to recognize that not every optimization opportunity you identify will be successful. Digital transformation takes time and likely at least 20% of your ideas will not yield direct conversion success. However, it’s what you do with the insights and learnings you gain from these ‘losses’ that’s most important. A/B testing often reveals extremely valuable and nuanced insights about customer preferences you cannot get through any other method. The hypothesis you put to the test that you are certain will be successful will sometimes shock you with what it reveals. So don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment.
It is important to remember that digital experiences are complex. There are a lot of influencing factors, emotions and choices that go into a single conversion. Markets change hourly, new and competing product choices come on the scene every day. It’s an ever-evolving mix of variables and choices your customers are navigating just to get to you.
So, stay in it for the long game. Keep true to your goals, stick to the process, and make small, strategic changes over time. Before you know it, you’ll have the site your customers are dreaming of and you’ll exceed your performance goals by a long shot.
Start small, think big
We hope you find these insights and must-have ingredients to digital transformation success helpful. Remember, the most important thing is to start small and think big. Building culture takes time, but pays off big in the end. Best of luck to you and we’re here if you need some support and guidance or just want to vent. We’ve been there.