How do you make conversion optimization a priority within a global organization?
Especially, when there are so many other things you could spend your marketing dollars on?
And how do you keep multiple marketing teams aligned when it comes to your optimization efforts?
ASICS, a global sporting goods retailer, is a giant company with multiple websites and marketing teams in multiple regions.
For an organization like this, deciding to pursue conversion optimization (CRO) as a marketing strategy is one thing, but actually implementing a successful, cohesive conversion optimization program is an entirely different thing.
We started working with ASICS several months ago to help them with this rather daunting task.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Jose and Sarah to discuss what it’s like to be an Optimization Champion within a company like ASICS.
Let’s start at the very beginning with a few introductions.
For almost 8 years, Jose has been involved in different areas of online marketing, but Analytics has always been a core part of his career. About five years ago, he began to move from paid marketing and SEO and started focusing on analysis and conversion optimization.
He was brought in to lead the conversion optimization program at ASICS, but it became obvious that proper conversion optimization wouldn’t be possible without putting the company’s Analytics in order first.
“For my first year at ASICS, I was focused on getting our Analytics where they need to be. Right now, we have a good Analytics foundation and that’s why we’re getting momentum on conversion optimization. We’re building our teams internally and externally and my role, right now, is both execution and strategy on these two fronts,” explains Jose.
Sarah has been with ASICS for a little over a year as the Ecommerce Global Product Lead. She hadn’t really been involved with testing until she started working more closely with WiderFunnel and Optimizely (a testing tool).
She started working with Nick So, WiderFunnel Optimization Strategist, and Aswin Kumar, WiderFunnel Optimization Coordinator, to try to figure out what experiments would make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time on ASICS’ sites.
“I sometimes work with our designers to decide what a test should look like from the front end and how many variations we want to test, based on Nick and Aswin’s recommendations. I provide WiderFunnel the necessary assets, as well as a timeline and final approvals.
“Once a test is launched, I work with WiderFunnel and with Jose to figure out what the results mean, and whether or not the change is something we want to roll out globally and when we’ll be able to do that (considering how many other things we have in our queue that are required development work),” explains Sarah.
But optimization is just a part of Sarah’s role at ASICS: she works with a number of vendors to try to get third party solutions on their sites globally, and she works with ASICS’ regional teams to determine new product features and functionality.
Despite the fact that they wear many hats, Jose and Sarah are both heavily involved in ASICS’ conversion optimization efforts, and I wanted to know what drew them to CRO.
Q: What do each of you find exciting about conversion optimization?
“Conversion optimization gives immediate results and that’s a great feeling,” says Jose. “Particularly with e-commerce, if you have an idea, you test it, and you know you’re about to see what that idea is worth in monetary value.”
Sarah loves the certainty.
We’re proving our assumptions with data. Testing allows me to say, ‘This is why we took this direction. We’re not just doing what our competitors do, it’s not just doing something that we saw on a site that sells used cars. This is something that’s been proven to work on our site and we’re going to move forward with it.’
Of course, it’s not all high’s when you’re an Optimization Champion at an enterprise company, which led me to my next question…
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as an Optimization Champion within a company like ASICS?
For Sarah, the biggest challenge is one of prioritization. “We have so many things we want to do: how do we prioritize? I want to do more and more testing. It’s just about picking our battles and deciding what the best investment will be,” she explains.
“When it comes to global teams, aligning the regions on initiatives you may want to test can be challenging,” adds Jose. “If a region doesn’t plan for testing at the beginning of their campaign planning process, for instance, it becomes very difficult to test something more dramatic like a new value proposition or personalization experiences.”
Despite the challenges, Sarah and Jose believe in conversion optimization. Of course, it’s a lot easier to sell the idea of CRO if there’s already a data-driven, testing culture within a company.
Q: Was there a testing culture at ASICS before your partnership with WiderFunnel?
“We had a process in place. We had introduced the LIFT Model®, actually. The LIFT Model is an easy framework to work with, it’s easy to communicate. But there wasn’t enough momentum, or resources, or time put into testing for us to say, ‘We have a testing culture and everybody is on board.’ Before WiderFunnel, there were a few seeds planted, but not a lot of soil or water for them to grow,” says Jose.
Q: So, there wasn’t necessarily a solid testing culture at ASICS – how, then, did you go about convincing your team to invest in CRO versus another marketing strategy?
“Education. For everything in enterprise, education is the most important thing you can do. As soon as people understand that they can translate a campaign into a certain amount of money or ROI, then it becomes easy to say ‘Ok, let’s try something else that can tie to the money,’” says Jose, firmly.
“A different strategy is just downplaying the impact of testing. ‘It’s just a test, it’s just temporary for a couple of weeks,’ I might say. Either people understand the value of testing, or I diminish the impact that a test has on the site.”
“Until it’s a huge winner!” I interject.
“Yes! Obviously, if it’s a huge winner, I can say, ‘Oh, look at that! Let’s try another,’” chuckles Jose.
Jose and Sarah focused on education and, with a bit of luck and good timing, they convinced ASICS to invest in conversion optimization.
Q: Has it been a good investment?
“Everybody goes into this kind of investment hoping that there will be a test that will knock it out of the park. You know, a really clear, black and white winner that shows: we invested this amount in this test and in a year it will mean 5x that amount.
“We had a few tests that pointed in that direction, but we didn’t have that black and white winner. For some people, they have that black and white mentality and they might ask if it was worth it.
“I think it was a wise investment. It’s a matter of time before we run that test that proves that everything is worthwhile or the team as a whole realizes that things that we’re learning, even if they’re not at this moment translating into dollars, are worthwhile because we’re learning how our users think, what they do, etc.”
After establishing ASICS’ satisfaction, I wanted to move on to the logistics of managing a conversion optimization program both internally and in conjunction with a partner. First things first: successful relationships are all about communication.
Q: How do you communicate, share ideas, and implement experiments both between your internal teams and WiderFunnel? How do you keep everyone aligned and on the same page?
Sarah explains, “We’ve tried a few different management tools. Right now, JIRA seems to be working well for us. I can add people to an already existing ticket and I don’t have to add a lot of explanation. I can just say, Aswin and Nick came up with this idea, it’s approved, here’s a mock up. Everything is documented in one place and it’s searchable.
“I don’t necessarily think JIRA is the best tool for what we’re doing, but it allows us to have a whole history in a system that our development team is already using. And they know how to use it and check off a ticket and that’s helpful.
Related: Get organized with Liftmap. This free management tool makes it easy for teams to analyze web experiences, then present findings to stakeholders.
“I also send emails with recaps, because digging through those long JIRA discussions is kind of rough.”
Q: How do you share what you’re working on with other teams within ASICS?
“There are two parts to sharing our work: what’s going on and what’s coming,” explains Jose.
“You can see what’s coming in JIRA: tests that are coming and ideas that are being developed.
“Once we have results from a test and a write up, we’ll put a one-pager in a blog style report. When we have a new update, we send an email with the link to the one-pager and I also attach it as a PDF so that anyone who may not have access can still see the results.”
Sarah adds, “They’re very clear, paragraph form explanations with images of everything we’re doing. It’s less technical, more ‘this is what we tried, these are our assumptions, these are our results, this is what we’re going to do.’
This gives the Execs that aren’t on the day-to-day a snapshot showing we’ve made progress, what next steps are, and that we’re doing something good.
Q: How do you engage your co-workers and get them excited about conversion optimization?
Jose says, “I’ve gotten some comments and questions [on our one-page reports]. Obviously, I would like to get more. Once we have more resources, we’ll be able to put different strategies in place to get more engagement from the team. Lately, I’ve been trying to give credit to the region at least that came up with whatever idea we tested.
“I would like to get even more specific as we get more momentum, being able to say things like ‘Pete came up with this idea…and actually it didn’t work out, though we did learn insight X or insight Y.’ or ‘Pete came up with his third winning idea in a row—he gets a prize!’
There’s a level of fun that we can activate. We have some engagement, but I’m hoping for more.
Q: Ok, you’ve concluded a test, analyzed and shared your results — what’s your process for actually implementing changes based on testing?
Jose is quick to respond to this question, giving credit to Sarah: “Sarah’s involvement in our conversion optimization program has been great. Ultimately, Sarah is the one who gets things onto the site. And that’s half of the equation when it comes to testing. It’s so necessary having someone like Sarah invested in this. Without her, the tests might die in development.”
Sarah laughs and thanks Jose. “A lot of my job is managing expectations with our regions,” she explains. “Some regions want to test everything, and they want to do it now, and we have to tell them ‘That’s great, but we can’t give you all of our attention.’ Whereas some regions barely talk to us and have a lot of missed opportunities, so we have to manage the testing and implementation on their site.
“For less engaged regions, we try to communicate “Hey, we have evidence that this change really helped — look at all the sales you got and all of the clicks you got, we’d like you to have this on your page.
“Testing also takes a lot of the back and forth and Q & A out of implementation because we already have something that works. And, unless there’s some weird situation, we can roll a change out globally and say, ‘This is where the idea came from, it came from so-and-so, it’s pushed all the way through and now it’s a global change.’
“We can invite the regions to think of all of the awesome things we can do as a global team whenever we work together and go through this process. And other people can say ‘Hey, we did this! I have some more ideas.’ And the circle continues. It’s really great.”
You’ve both spent a lot of time working with WiderFunnel to build up ASICS’ conversion optimization program, so I’ve got to ask…
Q: What are the biggest challenges and benefits of working with a partner like WiderFunnel?
“The biggest challenge in working with any partner is response time: me responding in time, them responding in time. I’m also the middle man for a lot of things, so maintaining alignment can be tough,” says Sarah.
“But as far as benefits go, it’s hard to choose one. One of the biggest has been WiderFunnel’s ability to take the debate out of a testing decision. You’re able to evaluate testing ideas with a points structure, saying, ‘We think this would be the most valuable for you, for your industry, for what we’ve seen with your competitors, this is the site you should run it on, we think it would be best on mobile or desktop, etc.’
“And we can rely on WiderFunnel’s expertise and say, ‘Let’s do it.’ We just have to figure out if there’s anything that might really ruffle feathers, like making changes to our homepage. We have to be careful with that because it’s prime real estate.
“But if it’s a change to a cart page, I can say, ‘Yes, let’s go ahead and do that, get that in the queue!’ It’s all about getting those recommendations. And once we have a few smaller wins, we can move up to the homepage because we’ve built that trust.
“Another benefit is the thorough results analysis. The summary of assumptions, findings, charts, data, graphs, next steps and opportunities. That’s huge. We can look at the data quickly and identify what’s obvious, by ourselves, but it takes time for us to collate and collect and really break down the results into very clear terms. That’s been hugely helpful,” she adds.
For Jose, the benefit is simple: “Getting tests concluded and getting ideas tested has been the most helpful. Yes or no, next. Yes or no, next. Yes or no, next. That’s created the visibility that I’ve been hoping for — getting visibility across the organization and getting everybody fired up about testing. That’s been the best aspect for me.”
Are you your organization’s Optimization Champion? How do you spread the gospel of testing within your organization? Let us know in the comments!