Self-Service Optimisation – Keeping it Strategic

As Nick Keating, VP EMEA, Maxymiser explains, marketing teams can now easily build new optimisation campaigns by themselves, using a range of AB & MVT testing techniques, but it is essential not to forget the people and process that underpins strategic optimisation. And this approach delivers the greatest business impact and return on investment.

Market Maturity
The strategic importance of website optimisation has become rapidly apparent. Just a few years ago, marketers had to learn that optimisation was not a one off, ‘set and forget’ exercise. Today brands are continuously optimising content, offers and user journeys to drive the performance of their online businesses and as a result, growing numbers are looking to take responsibility for this core activity in house.

Gaining the expertise to support optimisation in house is not straightforward. While in the US upwards of 50% of optimisation activity is now managed internally, in the UK the figure is relatively low – in no small part due to the lack of in-house expertise and experience as well as a limit on the resource available to support optimisation.

So while self-service optimisation tools may be available to enable marketing to build and run campaigns, developing the right in-house expertise takes time. A hybrid model is an effective stepping stone towards full self service, with organisations looking to managed services providers to augment internal skills and bridge the resource gap while optimisation teams are built and mature.

However, it is important to remember that optimisation is far more than making tactical changes to content: this is a strategic activity that requires the right best practice processes and the right resources in place to deliver high returns on investment.

Strategic Thinking
Self-service tools are not a replacement for the strategic thinking and process that now underpins successful optimisation programmes. Managed services companies are successful at delivering optimisation not just because of the quality of their tools but also because of their proven, best practice methodologies.

It is therefore essential that any organisation looking to embark upon more optimisation activity in house also applies the same rigour. Who determines what areas of the website to test and why? How does it fit into an overall optimisation strategy? Who is defining that strategy and how are the results and insights of any campaigns feeding back into that strategy for on-going review?

Hybrid Model
While the self-service optimisation tools are making the process of running a campaign straightforward, the end to end optimisation process – defining goals, setting targets and measuring, sharing results and insights are essential to success.

And this is where the hybrid model comes into play – with organisations using internal expertise where available, and plugging gaps in both skills and expertise using a managed services provider.

For example, a third party is going to have experience in international optimisation and understand the different challenges across different countries. A third party will also have the experience in delivering cross-channel optimisation across desktop, mobile, tablet and apps, an area in which many organisations lack both skills and confidence.

Right now the hybrid model is based on a division of workload – with managed services providers increasingly augmenting the in house resource. As that evolves, however, and organisations build teams, the role of the managed services provider will change and become one of providing “strategic services” – leveraging knowledge gained across different industry sectors and clients to provide best practice insight and guidance. Indeed, in time, many organisations will build up the skills and resources required to undertake all optimisation activity in-house and will no longer require the support of an external provider.

The self-service optimisation model is compelling; it enables organisations to embark upon simpler campaigns to build confidence, prove the case and grow the budget and team over time. However, it is also risky if it lacks focus – as one retailer discovered. Only 20% of the 80 campaigns conducted in one year were actually useful; with 90% of additional revenue generated from just 10%. Why? Because it ran too many campaigns back to back without feeding insights from earlier activity into the strategic roadmap.

Clearly optimisation activity should always be about quality not quantity – however simple the tools are to use. And that means implementing a strategic approach to optimisation, whether via a self-service, hybrid or fully managed service model.

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