I have the honor of traveling the world to meet with optimization teams and companies across a myriad of industries—retail, travel, financial services, automotive, high tech, etc.—to discuss digital business strategies, digital marketing organizations, and optimization program development. Glamorous, I know, but the reality of these speedy trips is that I spend a lot of time working out of hotel rooms. The truly exciting part of these trips is seeing the exponential value of testing and targeting being realized more efficiently than ever before. This is the result of optimization teams gaining access to the enhanced integrations between previously siloed profile data sets, leveraging the ease of use of interfaces, and using a breadth of both manual and automated means for efficiently and accurately determining the rule sets that will drive relevant experiences across a diverse visitor population.

Travel and hospitality customers can now “live the dream” of leveraging progressive multichannel profiles that adapt based on whether customers are traveling for business or pleasure. Customers receive offers and in-flight screen content that incorporate the most desirable personal creature comforts and accessories based on the multi-channel data aggregated and regularly updated in their profile. Financial institutions can import daily feeds of profiles aggregating branch, call center, and other offline data with online first-party, and even third-party, data feeds including valuable variables, such as credit rating, that help score and connect the most appropriate offers to display at first touch based on prequalification and level of investment.

And yet, I still hear on a semi-regular basis from certain teams that these personalization scenarios seem out of reach, or “beyond what we’re able to achieve with our conservative resources.” Programs are left mired in incidental or isolated testing of individual high-value elements, such as the homepage hero banner at a population level, without any analysis of how these targeted experiences might influence key subsegments within the population or affect experiences further down the funnel. This not only severely limits the potential returns that a team can achieve with its testing program, but also affects the behavior and loyalty of subsegments that receive a disjointed or impersonal experience, opens your site and experiences to the risk of friction, frustration, and churn, and it can hinder your program growth and strategy because it’s based on improper analyses of the relative predictability of variables.

The excuse is often that there are only single, part-time, or few dedicated resources available to execute tests. In our experience, even one person is enough to achieve real gains in a testing program. Some enterprise global power users of Adobe Target, for example, have one to three members on their optimization teams and are generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue lift. The main reason why these programs can function with a small team is that the essential optimization steps in the program are conducted within a well-established workflow, lending itself to predictability from an executive expectations standpoint as well as a reporting perspective on when results will be delivered. Do you have an executive sponsor? Do you have the ever-important project manager responsible for managing resources and scheduling? Is there an available creative resource or can the optimization manager make the desired content editing within the solution as needed? This organized testing workflow can be constructed and managed like an assembly line, in which many tests are in varying stages of development, execution, and analyses. Our built-in safeguards for concurrent testing are there to help maintain accuracy in reporting and scalability of testing activities on a single page or across your digital channels.

Another pitfall I often see is that a program will equate the number of tests currently being run as the litmus test for success and momentum in its program. “The more data we receive from testing, the more accurate our targeting and personalization strategy will be.” Sixty poorly executed, simple tests with limited data to filter reports can give you less data than one strategically constructed test with access to rich segmentation and success metrics for filtering and evaluating success. A well-developed, progressive testing and optimization strategy with focused activities that have a clear objective and measurement of success is tantamount to the effectiveness of your immediate return on investment (ROI) as well as growth in terms of sophistication and program expansion. Effective evaluation of the results and informed comparison of the relative influence of key segments and compound variables can shine a light on the real personalization opportunities available to you, as well as where your focus is not valuable.

There is also a reliable strategic methodology for evaluating the most valuable elements to target at each stage of the customer’s journey: beginning with what is absolutely required on a given page or stage in the customer journey and what is not, next evaluating the essential functions of each element, and then diving in to understand the relative influence of the elements within customer content. This methodology identifies the most relevant experiences for distinct segments or individuals of your population using manual or (more likely) automated capabilities for individual personalization based on identifying the most predictive variables within rich profile data. The success of this methodology has motivated Adobe to embed more guidance, safeguards, and best practices within our new visual linear workflow, and to provide a strategic advisor to assist with ideation and strategy development when needed.

Having well-defined roles, a reliable workflow, and a proven, strategic methodology are the right ingredients for experiencing true momentum in your optimization program and seeing immediate revenue lift that you can evangelize along with insights on refinement steps to focus on. Match this with the ease of use, governance, breadth of manual and automated capabilities, and synchronized profile data provided within the Adobe Target solution, and I imagine I’ll be racking up some serious mileage rewards hearing about the ongoing success that more and more companies are seeing with testing and personalization across their digital channels.