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The 3 Pillars of Successful Testing and Personalization Strategies

Erin McElwee • January 24, 2019

A quick trip through the source code of a dozen or so sites will show that A/B testing and personalization platforms have permeated every level of digital commerce. Testing and personalization is a great way to drive ROIpositive changes and deepen customer connections, but between free trials, free tools and promising WYSIWYG’s, it can be hard to plot and execute smart personalization and testing strategies.

Often, our clients ask us questions to help sharpen and optimize their personalization and testing strategies. Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive are:

  • What should we be testing to see the largest ROI?
  • How do we prioritize tests and how many tests can we run at the same time?
  • We have run some tests in the past but aren’t seeing great results. What are we doing wrong?

Tough questions! The truth is that there are no easy answers – without fully understanding your customers and how they interact with your experience, it is almost impossible to give hard-and-fast responses.

What we do know, though, is how to craft a successful testing program that will hone in on the points that matter. The backbone of a successful testing and personalization program has three components: Structure, Focus, and Data Comprehension. Without these three pillars, a testing program will never work. Why? It becomes far too easy to get distracted by the newest idea that hits the conference room table, causing you to lose sight of your long term goal.


Structure – Setting Smart Priorities and Goals

Understanding short- and long-term business and team goals is an easy way to ensure a testing and personalization program is creating value. Defining these objectives provides the necessary structure to start building future tests and hypotheses, and delivers the context required for determining if the findings are moving the needle for your team, customers, and business.


Focus – One Variable At A Time

Splintered, conflicting, and unfocused testing and personalization strategies lead to confusion and derail future iterative tests. Essentially, when these strategies run against each other, it becomes impossible to look at results and draw meaningful insights.

Focus should be applied to goals, strategy, prioritization, development, and analysis. Without focus, testing and personalization programs often produce conflicting strategies, inefficient campaign queues or even tests which compromise one another. Organizing each of these parts is imperative to a successful program.  


Data Comprehension – Know The Landscape

The all too familiar saying, “You only get out what you put in” is very much applicable to personalization and testing. Before any test plan is made, understanding the landscape of the site and where the sticking points are is imperative: without this information, it is impossible to accurately determine which optimizations will deliver the most value to you and your customers.

Similarly, an accurate post-test analysis is just as important as a pre-test plan. With a wealth of data being generated both in and out of the testing or personalization platform, a thorough post-test analysis is the capstone to a testing or personalization campaign.  Multiple data sources, changes in the marketing mix, user segmentation, statistics, and bias are just a few things that need to be considered during a post-test analysis when determining the effect and value of any proposed changes.


With many moving parts, creating a testing and personalization program it a lot tougher than most make it out to be. But, if you can remain focused, goal-driven, and built tests on quality data analysis, you can successfully harvest fruitful results. Reducing fractured testing practices and following a clear roadmap helps ensure the testing and personalization practice keeps initiatives efficient while ensuring that results are true and valuable.


Erin McElwee

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Erin McElwee

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