Modern marketing strategy is a tug-of-war between assumptions and absolutes, gut instincts and concrete data.
This balancing act can be uncomfortable. Data-driven strategy places marketers directly into customers’ shoes. Every interaction, conversion, friction or opportunity can be analyzed and maximized to drive the business forward. Yet, fortune favors the bold! There’s an undeniable time and place to throw caution to the wind and lead through gut instinct.
Digital experimentation steadies this balancing act, offering a framework to act on gut instinct within the safety net of fast, quantifiable and customer-centered results. This tempered risk taking is very attractive: 45% of marketing decision-makers invested in experimentation last year.
Running experiments (A/B testing, multivariate testing, multi-armed bandit testing, user research, personalization and more) measures the target audience’s response to design, segmentation, channel or product strategies in near real-time, enabling marketers to make incremental improvements to customers’ experience.
To maximize this opportunity, businesses must adopt a culture of experimentation. But that’s easier said than done. Today, we’re sharing four common mistakes to avoid when building a culture of digital experimentation.
1. No Executive Buy-In
Building a culture of digital experimentation comes from the top. It cannot be siloed to teams or individuals, and it cannot be throttled by corporate bottlenecks.
Running frequent experiments means inevitably some will fail — and that’s perfectly fine. Failure is an opportunity to learn something new. It’s in these moments of surprise that true innovation takes root.
Executives must champion experimentation across the organization and work tirelessly to remove bottlenecks and silos from the optimization process. Failing to do so dilutes effectiveness, reduces agility, and negatively impacts overall innovation culture.
Related Article: Marrying the Art and Science of Marketing: From Engagement to Bliss
2. Skipping the Strategic Framework
A strategic framework marries experiments and goals, ensuring processes are consistent and reliable. It forces marketers to evaluate gut instincts and define a hypothesis to be measured, proven true or false, and iterated on for better outcomes.
The framework is a shared plan to document goals, tactics, audience segments, key performance indicators, duration and next steps.
It must specify the test variable — an element that can be identified, modified, added, or removed to improve the customer experience or achieve a desired outcome. If you test too many things at one time, there’s no definitive revelation to drive the next approach.
The framework must include guidance on achieving statistical significance — what threshold determines action? If the sample size is too small, the results may be misleading.
The shared strategic framework ensures experiments are transparent, defined, rooted in data and purposeful.
Related Article: Marketing’s Growing Gap Between Strategy and Execution
3. Haphazard Adoption
Placing digital experimentation at the heart of digital strategy can be uncomfortable at first. It’s not uncommon to undermine success through haphazard adoption.
Inconsistency may manifest as cherry-picking results or letting gut instinct take priority over experiments. It might mean applying insights unevenly across campaigns or channels.
Smart experimentation isn’t just running experiments, it’s optimizing from the lessons learned. Marketers must iterate ongoing to continuously drive incremental improvements. The intent is to learn something and apply those learnings to the rest of your strategy.
Related Article: Don’t Push Pause on Your Digital Transformation
4. Breaking Down Silos
A culture of experimentation requires continuous questioning, analyzing, learning and improving. These lessons and incremental improvements must be shared across teams and departments to uplift the entire organization.
Remember, the goal is to drive meaningful business change or growth. If an experiment succeeds, how can others within the organization mimic or benefit from this lesson learned?
Schedule regular team meetings to collaborate on how these lessons could improve other operational areas. Encourage internal emails, shared wikis, team chat or other collaborative resources to help everyone operate from a shared knowledgebase.
Fight tirelessly to break data and communication silos and create opportunities for knowledge sharing across the company.
Gut Feeling: Digital Experimentation Is the Future
Digital experimentation is not a fad or buzzword. It’s a better way for marketers to marry gut instinct and data-centered strategy to create deeper customer connections and more meaningful outcomes.
It’s a win-win — endless inspiration and insights to fuel digital marketing strategy, refocused team collaboration and alignment, and incremental improvements to customers’ experience.
As chief executive officer of digital agency Whereoware, Michael Mathias leads Whereoware’s strategic vision and culture of innovation, comprehensive digital marketing, and flawless performance. Mathias comes to Whereoware with an impressive track record accelerating growth for companies at all stages, with expertise spanning marketing, software, professional services, big data, analytics, and technology.