Ear­lier this week, I talked about what it means to be a mature com­pany with regard to opti­miza­tion. This year is being touted as one of “dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion” and everyone’s forg­ing ahead—some with aban­don, oth­ers more cau­tiously. Great news for all niches of the indus­try, sure, but it’s impor­tant to keep an eye—and mean­ing­ful resources—on opti­miza­tion. The orga­ni­za­tions that can spread the test­ing and opti­miza­tion love across all aspects of their busi­ness will be the ones in prime posi­tion to make this trans­for­ma­tional period count.

So let’s assess where you are. The Adobe Tar­get team has iden­ti­fied six dimen­sions that, col­lec­tively, are good indi­ca­tors of opti­miza­tion sophis­ti­ca­tion. What’s unique about these dimen­sions is that, when work­ing well and in tan­dem, they fuel the kind of momen­tum that dri­ves busi­nesses forward.

As you’re review­ing each dimen­sion, keep in mind that an orga­ni­za­tion that thrives in a few areas and lags a bit behind in oth­ers isn’t dead in the water—that’s far from the case. Think of the two matu­rity indi­ca­tors dis­cussed here and the upcom­ing four as a com­bined scor­ing sys­tem, where a strong show­ing in one area can make up for some weak­nesses in another. Let’s break it down.

Cul­ture

One crit­i­cal dimen­sion in assess­ing matu­rity is the cul­ture of your orga­ni­za­tion as it relates to test­ing, per­son­al­iza­tion, and over­all opti­miza­tion. Very sim­ply, does the cul­ture exist to get it done effec­tively, effi­ciently, and across all chan­nels of com­merce and engage­ment? Are you and the key stake­hold­ers from every cor­ner of the busi­ness primed and ready to make data-driven decisions?

It might sound good at first glance, but remem­ber that those deci­sions may chal­lenge exist­ing assump­tions and already-implemented “best prac­tices.” In other words, what you unearth through test­ing and opti­miza­tion ini­tia­tives may not only sur­prise you but may go against some of your organization’s core val­ues and the sta­tus quo of your brand, your busi­ness, or even your indus­try. Are you pre­pared to not just stare down those real­i­ties but to take the conflicting—but supported—knowledge and find­ings and imple­ment them through­out the business.

Lenovo’s Senior Man­ager for Opti­miza­tion & Per­son­al­iza­tion Sip­ing Roussin explained that opti­miza­tion cul­ture is so embed­ded in the Lenovo​.com orga­ni­za­tion that “gut feel­ings” sim­ply don’t apply. Lenovo’s is a crawl/walk/run phi­los­o­phy with pilots launched for every sin­gle opti­miza­tion pro­gram, and as essen­tial com­po­nents to secur­ing the orga­ni­za­tional buy-in, she and her group need to move ahead—something we’ll touch on in a later dimension.

Pilots are pushed out across less dense regions, launch­ing fast and early, with small teams to drive greater, more clear-cut wins that pro­vide the foun­da­tion she needs to evan­ge­lize within the larger stake­holder pool.

A good exam­ple of Lenovo’s opti­miza­tion cul­ture at work? The com­pany part­nered with Adobe recently, tap­ping into our Audi­ence Man­ager prod­uct to gain a com­plete, con­sol­i­dated view of its Aus­tralian audi­ence and then clus­ter con­sumers accord­ingly. Once clus­tered, they could be tar­geted with price-point-specific offers and machines, selected based on the company’s deep under­stand­ing of its buy­ers and prospec­tive buyers.

The result? Mas­sive lifts in con­ver­sion over 20 per­cent. The cul­ture exists at Lenovo—the com­pany set its sights, put plans into action quickly, and imme­di­ately lever­aged telling wins to gain the orga­ni­za­tional sup­port it needed to weave these types of opti­miza­tion and test­ing into the fab­ric of the com­pany so it can do more, faster, bet­ter, and big­ger than ever.

And it’s got the ROI to prove it.

Although your opti­miza­tion efforts might not yet be at the scale of Lenovo’s, think about your orga­ni­za­tion and, cul­tur­ally, where you stand with regard to opti­miza­tion. The biggest thing, I think, is com­mit­ting to mak­ing those data-driven deci­sions once the data exists. If you’re sim­ply going to fall back on what’s worked—or, worse, what exists—give your­self a low score for cul­ture. If what’s keep­ing your cul­ture score down, though, is the insti­tu­tional buy-in, take a page from Lenovo’s play­book and start small, build­ing the street cred you need to get the nec­es­sary buy-in from the deci­sion mak­ers who mat­ter. That’s the first step in shift­ing cor­po­rate cul­ture toward test­ing and opti­miza­tion matu­rity. That’s a great goal for 2014.

Lead­er­ship

In that vein, another core dimen­sion for assess­ing dig­i­tal opti­miza­tion matu­rity is lead­er­ship. A cul­ture of test­ing and opti­miza­tion is great, of course, but with­out an unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment from the exec­u­tive insid­ers who move those fis­cal– and resource-based nee­dles, your orga­ni­za­tion won’t be able to bust through the hur­dles that lie ahead.

Trend­set­ting music gear com­pany Skull­candy is a great exam­ple. Over the last 12 months, the com­pany has focused on mak­ing strate­gic changes in the lead­er­ship arena to sup­port the edit­ing and ampli­fi­ca­tion of its exist­ing online ini­tia­tives and roll­outs. Rather than mak­ing a few small tweaks here and there, con­ver­sa­tions have shifted to be decid­edly high level and long term—and that means care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of resources, tim­ing, and imple­men­ta­tion implications.

For Skull­candy, lead­er­ship align­ment meant focus­ing on the cus­tomer across all lev­els of the busi­ness, under­stand­ing who’s out there, and under­stand­ing who it’s mar­ket­ing toward—and it’s a man­date that comes from the top down, fil­ter­ing its way into all areas of the com­pany. That means align­ing test­ing soft­ware, build­ing out platform-agnostic expe­ri­ences, and stay­ing laser-focused on the site func­tion­al­ity that needs help—and know­ing there’s exec­u­tive sup­port to back it up and get it done.

Build­ing up this dimen­sion has helped the brand get out from under the data. It’s some­thing many orga­ni­za­tions are guilty of. Skull­candy has it, now how can it work harder? And how can it play in every orga­ni­za­tional sand­box? The com­pany has this dimen­sion really but­toned up, but it all started with some test­ing soft­ware. For months, it was installed, in place, and avail­able, but the com­pany almost imme­di­ately rec­og­nized the need to beef up in this dimen­sion to max­i­mize its cul­ture, com­mit­ment, and resources.

The take­away? Hav­ing an influ­en­tial and engaged exec­u­tive spon­sor is clutch, as is pulling the opti­miza­tion efforts and know-how through all areas of the busi­ness via that lead­er­ship. Don’t have one? Go back to “start” (a.k.a the “cul­ture” sec­tion of this post) and test, test, test, then evan­ge­lize, evan­ge­lize, evangelize.

So those are just two of the six areas we use to assess opti­miza­tion matu­rity. These assess­ments are crit­i­cal steps toward set­ting your com­pany on the right path to deep, mean­ing­ful, ROI-producing test­ing and opti­miza­tion efforts.

Stay tuned—four more dimen­sions, some easy-to-implement rec­om­men­da­tions and insights, and a com­pre­hen­sive tool to help you assess, align, and move for­ward to come.

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