Many companies are now recognizing that, in a world of mobile devices and increasingly sophisticated online services, providing an excellent customer experience requires a different approach - above and beyond the simple management of website conversion rates, according to a white paper entitled '5 Steps to Creating a Successful Optimization Strategy' from Maxymiser, which shows why the emphasis can no longer be on landing pages, product launches, and creative promotion. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The paper argues that companies, brands and marketing teams now need to embrace personalisation and optimization across all channels to help improve conversion, customer retention, and average customer spend.

Yet even if today's digital marketing, ecommerce or interactive teams have the remit to move beyond basic improvements in conversion, the vast majority of optimization projects, even website development projects, are tactical. By integrating optimization more tightly into the overall business strategy, organisations can transform the customer experience and deliver additional incremental revenue to the business.

In the white paper Maxymiser explores five key steps to a successful optimization strategy, briefly summarised here:

  1. Determine Business Outcomes
    Whether the priority of the business is acquiring customers or looking to increase average customer spend, optimization can make a difference. However, before even considering optimization technologies, it is important to assess exactly what the business is looking to achieve.

    While the organisation will have a clear vision of business goals and strategic initiatives, it is essential to relate these objectives to the online business. This process of determining business outcomes has to be conducted by senior personnel - from marketing to product development.

    Not only will these individuals have access to the longer term corporate vision but their support also raises the profile of optimization within the business. Senior-level commitment provides sponsorship and delivers the management buy-in upfront that ensures the right resources will be made available.

    Furthermore, these senior managers are the stakeholders for optimization and have the authority, commitment and business vision to keep the process on track within an inevitably changing business environment.

  2. Prioritize Optimization Activity into a Campaign Road Map
    Of course, not all of the business issues raised during these discussions can be addressed by optimization. It is important to have a frank discussion with all stakeholders about what can be achieved with optimization and how much work will be required. At this point, with a number of ideas on the table, it is also important to prioritize activity into a road map of campaigns. If possible, the four or five top business outcomes should be ranked to provide further guidance and direction; it is then important to consider the priority outcomes in tandem with the optimization process and opportunities.

    Where are the quick wins that can demonstrate immediate value and rapidly embed the optimization process within the business? Which activities will be longer term and require additional development work and/or tie in with other business projects, such as a new product launch or business partnership? Once the initial optimization campaigns have been determined and prioritized, it is important to set KPIs for each campaign.

  3. Organise for Optimization Success
    Having determined the objective of the optimization strategy, an organisation needs to empower the right people to realise business objectives. This is a huge step forward from a single, isolated conversion manager; a successful strategy requires the coordination and collaboration of several individuals, from product marketers and web developers to the analytics team. Rather than having these individuals work remotely across the organisation, often taking on the optimization role on a part-time basis, creating a single team focused on the optimization strategy and business-led roadmap can be highly valuable.
  4. Create a Culture of Data-Driven Decision Making
    Having determined upfront the priority objectives, organisations can put in place a series of campaigns that test various hypotheses and learn from the results to determine the most effective approach to realising those objectives.

    This data-driven decision making based on customer input fundamentally transforms the cultural approach to optimization. It removes decisions made by a gut feeling, it evolves the optimization team beyond business as usual, and, most important, provides proven insight into the validity of various business concepts while retaining focus on key strategic priorities.

  5. Measure and Communicate Performance
    Once a culture of data-driven decision making and business outcome-led optimization has been put in place, it is essential to share the results and insights across the business and ensure all stakeholders recognise the value of the investment.

    Successful teams evangelize their results to build strong relationships across the business, with both online and offline sales and marketing teams. Communication ranges from internal blogs to newsletters and internal workshops where individuals are asked to suggest new opportunities for optimization.

    Using a combination of high-level outcomes with specific campaign-led insights as a platform for collaboration has proven to create more commitment, more business buy-in and, critically, more investment in both resources and head count.

Optimization is a Continual Process
The evolution from tactical to strategic optimization is undoubtedly one of the big goals for organisations over the next year or two. The ability to create an optimization road map that supports the business goals over 12 to 18 months can transform effectiveness and deliver significant incremental revenue.

With these five steps in place, an organisation will find itself in good shape to deliver a successful optimization strategy. However, while evangelizing is key to ensuring that the business recognises the value of the programme, it is also important that senior management understand that this is not a one-off activity. Strategic optimization should never be a "set it and forget it" model - instead it must become a continual optimization of customer experiences using a range of different techniques.

And let us not forget that, while your business is gaining value from the optimization programme, the competition is not just sitting back in admiration. Competitors continue to improve, customers change the way they want to interact with the business (such as the use of tablets) and business priorities evolve in line with market conditions. Simply put, every business must keep on improving.