Press release: Widerfunnel joins the Sideshow Group

Today Sideshow Group is extremely pleased to announce a significant step forward in our ambition to become a global challenger in digital experience and marketing services.

Widerfunnel, one of the world’s leading experimentation agencies, is confirmed as the newest agency in the Sideshow Group. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada but with most of its sales coming from the US, this is an exciting move into the North American market with an outstanding partner.

Widerfunnel was founded in 2007 as the “anti-agency”, with a promise never to make a marketing recommendation that couldn’t be validated through scientific A/B testing. Today, the Company is regarded as one of the most sophisticated conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and experimentation organisations, known amongst their peers for delivering outstanding return on investment for clients such as Microsoft, HP, The Motley Fool, TaylorMade, and Dollar Shave Club.

This brings further global dimension plus additional expertise, smart proprietary tools and rigorous methodologies to the Group’s model of evidence-driven performance.

Tony Hill of Sideshow Group says: “Having Widerfunnel join the group gives a fantastic boost to our promise of delivering commercially impactful work for our clients. Their experience and expertise will be hugely valuable, and the cultural fit was clear from the outset. We can see a lot of opportunities to collaborate and can’t wait to start working together. It has been very enjoyable getting to know Chris and the team at Widerfunnel, who are super-smart as well as being humble and extremely friendly.”

Chris Goward of Widerfunnel says: “Joining this family of smart companies complements our focused expertise in meaningful ways and gives us new outlets to leverage the experimentation-based insights we’ve gained. We will play a pivotal role in a smart strategy here. I’m excited about the opportunities this will open up for our team and new evidence-driven services for our clients.”

Sideshow Group was advised by Lewis Silkin, Eight Advisory, Miller Thomson and Grant Thornton. Widerfunnel was advised by Sequoia Mergers and Acquisitions, Miller Titerle + Company, and OakTree Accounting.

Conversion.com’s first independent event: What framework for personalisation?

Recently, we hosted our first ever independent event (we know, big deal!) and we chose to kick things off with one of the most en vogue topics of the moment in CRO – personalisation.

Led by Kyle Hearnshaw, Head of Conversion Strategy, (…and personalisation expert) and Stephen Pavlovich, our CEO, the event was held in a roundtable format. We wanted to engage with other practitioners from the industry and discuss five key themes:

  1. Cutting through the noise: Debunking personalisation myths
  2. What does personalisation mean to your business?
  3. Where do conversion optimisation, experimentation and personalisation meet?
  4. Is website personalisation right for your business? How can you tell?
  5. A framework for personalisation strategy

What’s up with personalisation?

With personalisation said to be just around the corner since at least 2014, we saw a good opportunity to get a real sense of what stage some leading organisations are at with personalisation, as well as what it means to the business.

We were not surprised to see that most of the companies present at the event were only just getting started with personalisation, whilst some had it on that radar but were yet to begin. But, it was clear however that no organisation could claim to be well underway with their personalisation programme.

These initial discussions satisfied our prognosis that everyone thinks that others are doing personalisation, but in reality very few companies are because of the expectation and complexity it poses.

So, how do you do it?

At Conversion.com, we created a four step framework to enable any company to use personalisation within experimentation.

1. Define goals and KPIs

“Why should we run this personalisation campaign?” The paramount question you should be asking yourselves. The first step you should take when considering personalisation is to define the goals and KPIs that will be used to measure success. An example of a goal could be to increase repeat customer revenue and our main KPIs would be conversion rate and average order value (AOV).

2. Evaluate capability 

The second step is to evaluate capability around our goals and KPIs. We aim to confirm whether it is possible to act on these and how we can do it.

You might wonder why this isn’t the first step of the framework? The reason is, evaluating capability can be a big, time-consuming task. If you don’t have a clear objective in mind to evaluate your capabilities against, you could end up spending a lot of time looking for capabilities that aren’t actually needed. Defining the goals and KPIs keeps us focused on answering whether we have the right data required to target specific users and if so, is this data accessible on the site for us to use in testing?

First set the goals you would like to achieve and evaluate if it’s possible and how. Don’t decide on what is possible first, and then shoehorn in a goal that fits.

3. Identify and prioritise audiences

The third step is the big one, this is where you identify and prioritise your audiences or audience groups for your personalisation project.

How do you know who you should target? Well, what matters here most, is that your audience is meaningful.

A meaningful audience is one that is identifiable, impactful and shows distinct behaviour. This means that each audience needs a clear profile that defines how a user in that group is identified and targeted. Audiences need enough volume and value to be worth the effort and users should behave differently enough to merit a personalised experience.

4. Experiment 

This is the last step! Now that we have our audiences defined, each audience can be treated as a conversion optimisation project where we would be looking to understand the key conversion levers that influence our audiences behaviour, and then experiment on it.

Realistically, each organisation will have more than one goal and KPI. We gathered from our event that it wasn’t only the number of orders and amount of revenue that were potential metrics for personalisation projects, but the number of customers that visit the store, or the number of driver downloads on your support site could also be worthwhile.

What should you do next? 

Now that we have a process tailored to personalisation, we can all start straight away, right?

Well, this depends on your organisation’s maturity model in experimentation and conversion optimisation. Personalisation requires a deep understanding of your users, more so than A/B testing and should only be approached if you have already reached the highest levels of experimentation maturity.

If you are just getting started with experimentation, we would recommend you first focus on gaining insights on your users and maximise the gains you can have from general experimentation and conversion rate optimisation. Personalisation is a long-term investment. So, if your organisation isn’t ready today, positioning yourself on the maturity model will help you to plan the steps you need to take to get there.

If your company lives and breathes experimentation, and you are considering optimising conversion further by increasing the relevance of customer experiences through personalisation, it is crucial that you take the time to integrate it in your wider digital strategy. Get support from the business, as it is likely that you will meet similar challenges to the ones that we have heard from clients that are already doing personalisation: lack of resources, difficulty in proving the value of personalisation and internal political issues (e.g. crossover between departments and markets).

Overall, we are extremely proud to have organised our first independent event and glad to know that everyone who attended the event left learning something new and, we are convinced, with plenty of ideas to take back to the office.

Looking to develop your approach to personalisation? If you have a question about how we can help you, then please do get in touch with hello@conversion.com

The Optimizely Customer Workshop: How do the UK’s biggest brands approach experimentation?

The Optimizely Customer Workshop, hosted by Phil Nayna (Enterprise Account Executive at Optimizely) and Stephen Pavlovich (Founder/CEO of Conversion.com), brought together representatives from some of the UK’s biggest brands to share their thoughts and insights on Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). The workshop took shape in the form of a roundtable where talk topics included: “Building a lean testing programme”, “Applying testing to business challenges” and, the buzzword of the moment, “Personalisation”.

 

Building a lean testing programme

Experience in testing and experimentation amongst attendees in the room ranged from businesses who were just starting out, to those that had already produced mature testing programmes. This range of experience provided the basis for a profound discussion. For UK brands just starting their testing, it was emphasised that obtaining buy-in from stakeholders was key to building a testing programme within their companies. For brands with more testing experience, the biggest challenge in building this lean programme came with shifting their culture. Key to adopting a testing culture is acknowledging – and leveraging – the focus on short-term testing and validation over long-term planning. That’s why the attendees all agreed that a short-term iterative roadmap is far better than a long-term rigid roadmap.

Here at Conversion.com, experimentation is at the heart of everything we do and who we are. We believe that building a lean testing programme and cultivating a testing culture relies on two key factors: education and sharing. Educating your employees to understand your philosophy on experimentation and its benefits is key. This allows your employees to view experimentation as far more than just the potential value it yields with winning tests. At Conversion.com we value education highly. We run our own CRO training programme for new associate consultants that educates them and allows them to think creatively and with ambition when it comes to experimentation and CRO. When sharing experiment results with clients, it’s crucial not just to share what was tested and what the results were, but more importantly why we tested it and what it can teach us about their users. This means that with every experiment, we learn more about their users, allowing us to refine and improve our testing strategy – while delivering measurable uplift.

 

Applying testing to business challenges (prioritisation of your testing roadmap)

Strategies for prioritising testing roadmaps varied extensively within the workshop, with all brands favouring a different approach or primary metric. One major UK supermarket brand stated that their approach was very data-driven, something we value highly at Conversion.com. They prioritised ease of implementation, lack of organisational friction in getting the test launched, potential impact the test has and the data or evidence supporting the hypothesis. Other primary metrics included cost impacts, due to one UK brand having a lack of development resource. This meant they favoured the ease of the test as a priority, as it allowed them to test despite this barrier.  

At Conversion.com we believe that the data driving a test is most important when prioritising our tests. This data informs us of the impact that the test is likely to have. Secondary metrics, such as the ease of building the test and getting sign-off  – as well as the other tests and hypotheses we have running in parallel – allow us to see how and when this test fits into our roadmap. However, it is important to note that prioritisation can be limited. There are finite swimlanes to test and finite resources, meaning prioritisation and planning have to be coherent. Understanding that testing roadmaps have to be flexible and adaptive is key. This allows us to easily change our roadmap according to the performance of previous tests and as our understanding of users improves.

 

Personalisation

Personalisation is the buzzword of the moment in CRO and this topic divided our workshop audience. Some UK brands stated that they had banned the word completely. Instead they refer to this as creating more relevant customer experiences and concentrating on more targeted journeys. All representatives agreed that their personalisation journey was at its early stages, believing it was important to keep personalisation simple and start getting tests live in order to gain momentum. However, we believe that this could increase the risk of companies starting personalisation too early and as a result, missing valuable opportunities for increasing their conversion rate with all-audience A/B testing. With personalisation being such a hot topic, it is critical that companies take the time to integrate this into their wider digital strategies as opposed to implementing it without consideration for other key areas of CRO.

At Conversion.com, we view personalisation as optimising conversion by increasing the relevance of experiences for specific audiences. Although we see personalisation as a great and exciting new opportunity to test, we believe it is important to successfully assess when to start personalisation. By its nature, it forces you to focus on a subset of users, potentially diminishing the impact of experiments as well as complicating future all-audience experiments.

 

The Optimizely Customer Workshop was the perfect setting for valuable discussions and an insight into how the UK’s biggest brands approach experimentation. From the workshop the key takeaways were:

  • Education of CRO needs to be more highly regarded within businesses in order to promote a shift in testing culture.
  • Visibility of testing programmes via sharing of content allows employees to understand the value of testing past just the potential value of winning tests.
  • Roadmaps should be as flexible and adaptive as possible to allow for test and learn iterations to occur.
  • Personalisation should be undertaken when its potential overtakes all-audience testing and should integrate with – rather than replace – typical A/B testing for CRO.