Why you should be embracing a test-and-learn culture

The concept of failing fast and often is inherent in Agile software methodologies, but can it also be applied in marketing? We investigate why CMOs need to start testing

test and learn
test and learn

Testing in digital advertising

The test-and-learn concept is embodied in the processes of many digital advertising technology and service providers. For instance, managing director for Australia at personalisation and retargeting specialists Criteo, Jeremy Crooks, says his company is responding to 15 million server requests each day, and reaching three out of four Australians every month.

“On the back of that, we are gathering a lot of information and feeding that directly back into the algorithms,” he says. “So hopefully the adverts we show the end user are fairly simplistic executions that are as relevant as possible. There is some degree of product recommendation in there as well which gives them a little bit of value extra ad as well.”

Online measurement company, Webtrends, has built a business model around offering test-and-learn services to clients that want to improve the performance of their websites.

“It is the fastest growing space for us,” says regional director, Mark Allison. “As a company we have been doing Web analytics for 20 years. The best way to use the data is to use it in real time to optimise the site.

“On average in Australia each test, across the board across all verticals, generates a 16.5 per cent lift in bottom line sales.”

Webtrends provides a test-and-learn optimisation service that can test multiple site iterations simultaneously, from small tweaks to entirely new functionality, by testing against a small sample of the overall site audience and comparing the results to a control group.

“It’s a bizarre thing, testing,” Allison says. “We might test five factors on a page, and things that we think will make a difference won’t, and things that we think won’t make much difference, do.”

Allison agrees test-and-learn is still a foreign concept for many Australian organisations – including some retailers – who prefer to launch massive redevelopments of their flagship sites with minimal user testing.

According to the head of strategy at advertising and digital media specialist Exponential, Tyler Greer, the unwillingness of some organisations to engage in test-and-learn activities may stem from an overall culture that shuns failure.

“We are in this landscape in which we have never had greater ability to understand our audience, their motivations, who they are consuming media, and yet we are very risk averse as well,” Greer says. “Social media has played a big role in that. There are two way conversations to be had. Yes there are the benefits of advocacy but then there is the risk of things going the other way.

“But risk as a concept is empowering to brands, because it builds a culture that is dynamic and nimble and intelligent and allows everyone to think about things and examine things.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

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