Stop Guessing: Digital Experimentation is the Future of Marketing

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Too often, corporate bottlenecks stall progress and growth. This is particularly true in the digital space, when red tape stifles innovation and slows the speed of digital transformation. Simply said, businesses that can’t keep up – get left behind.

In 2021, we must replace the knee-jerk reaction for top-down decision making and empower our teams to own change and innovation, through a culture of data-centered experimentation.

Technology-enabled experimentation is more accessible than ever for smaller scale businesses, with the results speaking for themselves. In fact, 63% of companies using marketing experimentation to drive business decisions outperformed their competitors and sales productivity increased 14.5% after implementing marketing automation.

Through experimentation, marketers can test and learn directly from their audience how to optimize their digital strategy and maximize their technology investment for greatest impact, based on how visitors engage and respond in real-time.

It’s time to stop guessing and embrace experimentation, but this change doesn’t happen overnight. Here are three common phases of building a culture of experimentation.

Phase 1: Guessing and Gut Instincts

Gone are the days when marketers tried everything under the sun (based on their gut instincts, whims, or larger marketplace trends) to see what “sticks”.

Without a data-and process-centered strategy, traditional marketing left a lot to be desired. Optimizing a marketing strategy was all but impossible, as marketers mainly had to go off of overall performance metrics, which rarely revealed the bigger “why”.

While throwing spaghetti at the wall is the seed that started the digital journey to automated experimentation, this old school, top-down approach is outdated, rife with missed opportunity, and should be put to bed.

Phase 2: Manual or Simple Experimentation

Many marketers find themselves in phase two: manual experimentation or simple automation, like AB tests. This is a perfectly respectable place to start – creating manual, human-led tests, analyzing results, and pivoting your strategy ongoing is definitely a step up from its predecessor.

With phase two, marketers are consistently learning and iterating, using data to drive their strategy. The main issue here is strategic confidence and time wasted.

AB tests might focus on smaller variables, making it more difficult for the marketer to pinpoint the aspect that garnered a favorable response. At the same time, longer duration manual tests require a lot of upfront work to execute and a longer waiting period to get results. Again, those results may not point to a single insight, making strategic confidence harder to achieve.

A business intelligence (BI) tool is one way to empower manual (or automated) experimentation by making it easier for marketers to analyze results and attribution. Bi tools, like Domo, layer data from multiple sources into one platform to help marketers connect the dots and see the big picture.

Additionally, by sharing a single “universal truth” across different teams, everyone can collaborate better and work from the same knowledge base.

Phase 3: Automated Experimentation

In 2021, experimentation is the name of the game. Automated experimentation empowers marketers to set up simple or sophisticated experiments across all aspects of their campaigns – themes, layouts, design elements, channels, audiences, and more. Everything can be tested, and measured, allowing marketers to pivot strategy at the turn of a dime.

Harnessing powerful experimentation tools like that of our partner, Optimizely, gives marketers a platform to run experiments with the guidance of powerful AI providing performance results and recommendations.

This is a gamechanger – the platform enables the fast and reliable creation of experiments, and the AI is the marketer’s helping hand, analyzing and recommending ways to improve the next experiment.

The key to a successful culture of experimentation is support from the top. Leadership must become comfortable allowing teams to run experiments and change course quickly.

This means failure is welcomed as part of the strategic process. Letting teams fail fast and pivot means learning what works and what doesn’t immediately, and iteratively strengthening your approach with every experiment.

Choose the right tools, trust your team, measure everything¸ and automate with intent – these are the building blocks of a culture of experimentation and an overall successful marketing strategy.

Tips To Create a Culture of Experimentation

    Identify goals and KPIs, and align decisions back to goals.
    Continuously experiment, optimize, and make incremental improvements.
    Give your team autonomy and permission to fail. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
    Invest in powerful tech-driven experimentation tools to better enhance results.
    Document everything and share all results – even if they’re surprising.

Experimentation Isn’t Just A/B Testing, It’s a Lifestyle

It’s time to level up your marketing strategy and lean into a new company culture, which empowers your team to work together more efficiently for the greater good of your business. Better tools, more trust, many experiments, and happier clients are what you are striving for as we move into 2022.

Building a culture of experimentation takes time, however the results will prove fruitful. Don’t be afraid to fail and be sure to use data to invest your time and money wisely.

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