Question 3: What is the most challenging in your business right now?

Conversion challengesOn top of my mind I think mobile user experience is the most challenging topic at the moment. Not many companies have cracked the mobile experience code. Rebuild our site for a fluid and positive user experience demands a lot from the organisation, both technically and mentally. You need to think mobile first, which we have found is not as easy as we thought.

Further we are on a stage where our technical systems give us a big challenge on everything we want to do. I think most big companies have this challenge. If you have developed a solution a few years ago you probably sit on old systems that need to be updated or replaced.

Another issue are our internal stakeholders. We have to many of them, which affects our work processes negatively. Our decision process is not optimal for working in an online environment.

The last issue is to integrate our personalization thinking into our work process. As I mentioned in an earlier article our personalization software is powerful and full of potential but you cannot harvest that potential if you do not adjust your internal organization and the way it thinks.

This question is part of a five question series that are the most common issues people ask me.

Question 2: What is the most challenging within conversion optimization?

online conversion optimizationI have been doing AB tests for a while now and feel pretty confident how to approach and build a strong testing culture within a company. Although optimization work is something that constantly needs to be reviewed and developed.

There is no other channel quite as complex as the web, in terms of the number of variables. This makes optimization work a never-ending story. I think one of the biggest challenges in my field is to know how long your recommendations live. In other words when do you know that for example your perfect converting landing page is out of date due to the ever-changing variables?

Another big challenge as I see it is the emergence of personalisation software, which put optimization in a new playing field. With personalisation you are moving into micro segmentation. The technology is extremely powerful but opens up for many challenges to companies that want to adopt this approach. The web is moving towards this field and as a conversion optimization specialist I need to evolve towards this path.

This question is part of a five question series that are the most common issues people ask me.

Question 1. What is the most challenging with web analytics today?

Conversion Optimization and Web analytics challengesI think each year has its own challenges. The web is constantly moving so you need to keep your knowledge fresh. For me this yes one of the more challenging aspects is the multi data source world we live in. The increase in data sources makes it much more challenging to interpret the data and make good decisions. The mobile phone traffic exploded last year and has continued in an upward path. Since this source is fairly new few companies have adjusted their technology and most of all their thinking to this channel.

I also think clean data is always a challenge. You constantly need to keep an eye on your data so it is clean. For example we have companies doing quality tests that generates a fair amount of data. You need to make sure you block those IPs and keep an eye on emerging data contamination sources.

This question is part of a five question series that are the most common issues people ask me.

Hitting the conversion optimization wall

When AB testing hits the optimization wall
When AB testing hits the optimization wall

Have you ever hit the conversion wall? You do your first tests and often get double-digit increase in conversion. Everyone is excited and you feel that optimisation work is fairly easy. Then something happens. Your tests do not give you satisfactory results any more. You do test after test and only get incremental increase on your conversion rate. You feel frustrated and you have no clue if you next effort will give you that sweet double-digit increase or not. On top of that your testing take a lot of resources and you start wondering if you could putt hat effort into something else. This is when you have hit the wall. Your next step will determine if you will be a cutting edge online company or not.

Something that the consultants do not tell you

When working with conversion optimisation consultants it is in their interest to keep the account going for as long as they can. That is why few will tell you that you have hit the conversion wall. You should either stop doing further tests or that you need to build a conversion department. Building a conversion department will eventually take them out of work so they keep trying with tests after tests.

The 80/20 rule applies here too

Like in many other cases the 80/20 rule applies on your testing too. 20% of your tests stand for 80% of your conversion rate increase. Low hanging fruits are the usually biggest ones. When you have picked those ones you need to invest in a ladder. This investment is usually fairly substantial and might take long time to yield results.

When do you truly know that you hit the wall?

Well it is hard to say. Some companies have a longer way to go than others. It is usually when you have tried many different things and more or less run out of ideas. Take my work as an example. We are selling one product that is standardised. No colours, no sizes, no features, everyone gets the same thing. When testing our landing page, I built a few versions based on experience how a good landing page should be. Testing the first one yielded double digit conversion increase. The second one also, but then it got much harder. I started to optimize further into the funnel with little success. This is when I knew I hit the conversion wall. From here on I needed to think differently.

What do you do when hitting the wall?

This is when you need to take your game to the next level. You need to get into business development, use business intelligence data, setup conversion optimisation processes, use UX methodology, segment your users and get into personalisation. As you can see this puts your company on a new playing field where it will demand more resources than ad hooch testing and a new way of working and thinking.

Is it worth it?

If you are a small company I would say that you should pick the low hanging fruits and then stop. It does not make a lot of sense in getting a full time conversion employee before you grow bigger. If you are a bigger organisation and have specialized departments like business intelligence, fronted development, marketing department etc then it makes a lot of sense to invest in further conversion optimisation. Conversion optimisation will increase your bottom line revenue and in the same time you get smarter as an organisation. You can read more about building a conversion department on my other post here: http://www.onlineplanet.se/2012/11/how-to-build-a-world-class-online-conversion-department/.

Now, let me ask you a question, does your company have a conversion department? Do you know any company that does?

My thoughts on the X-Change conference 2013 Berlin

x-change conferenceDuring 12-13 of June 2013 I attended the X-Change conference held in Berlin. It is a conference mostly for web analysts with a bit of a twist. It is organised in discussion groups called huddles. These discussion groups contain a maximum of 15 people and you can choose multiple sessions during the two-day period. In total the conference had approximately 100-150 attendances from companies such as Zalando, Siemens, Virgin Media, Dell, Soundcloud and many more.

 

The good

  • To be able to meet fellow web analysts from all around the world. About 15 countries were represented.
  • Small, medium and large size companies were present.
  • The format is unique. Having discussion sessions is much better than listening to presentations. You get closer to the real problems people face.
  • Intimate session which means you talk to a lot of practitioners even after the end of the session.
  • I have never talked to so many people at a conference and never exchanged so many business cards.
  • The conference was well organized, and the sessions in general fun to attend.
  • The format allows you to get a more intimate insight of other companies problems and solutions when it comes to analytics and e-business.
  • No selling from consultants. Although one of the USP of the conference is no consultant, this was not true. I must say that the consultants attending were extremely well behaved. No sale pitch at all from anyone, which was a unique experience.
  • There were some really smart people attending. It was mostly web analysts but you could also find consultants and business people.
  • Businesses that can be considered to be in the forefront of the web development attended although the US true giants were missing.

 

The bad

  • How the sessions are experienced depends a lot on the moderator. A good moderator makes people talk and the conversation gets a natural flow.
  • Many of the discussions went too much in technicalities, which in the end of the day is more or less specific to each business model making it hard to extract knowledge from the discussion. I would rather see discussions based on the business value hence raising the bar of the topic.
  • To many people in the session which hampered the discussion. There is a sweet spot around 8-10 people, bigger than that and you have a hard time having a discussion. There was a tendency to have small monologues instead of discussion a bit like the presidential debates on TV.
  • There should have been more business value sessions. Sessions discussing the business value and how you can use technology to move your KPI needles.
  • The price of the conference. 1400 euros is a lot of money even for big companies.
  • The representative of Facebook cancelled (did it have anything to do with the Prism scandal which erupted the days before?).

Main takeaways

  • The mobile web holds a lot of focus for the companies. Many of the companies have native apps but few think about responsive web.
  • Identifying unique users on multiple devices is a problem. The most prominent use unique ”fingerprints” for various devices.
  • The general consent is that serving segmented content increases the conversion although only one company had numbers on it.
  • Privacy issues are a big concern for all companies. The coming data protection law that the EU is cooking is also seen with great concern.
  • A lot of the attended companies have done AB testing in one way or another. Only one company though (Zalando) had a team called Conversion Optimisation. I think that explicitly naming a team like that sends strong signals to the rest of the organisation. Most companies do AB testing under the web analytics umbrella.
  • Tracking is still a big issue for most organisations. The complexity of having multiple products and in multiple countries adds to the challenges companies face. Global organisations also ad another layer of complexity with teams and stakeholders scattered.

 

Will I attend again?

Well, this is a hard question. Returning customers is actually an extremely good measure of how good your product or service is. I enjoyed the conference and met many interesting people but I feel that the takeaway from the sessions were smaller than justified especially if you consider the price. I would say that I might return in a few years but if the format would improve a bit then I would definitely consider returning earlier. When I say that the format should improve I imply to the fact of having some sort of quality control for the huddles. It could be cutting the groups in half which will spur the conversation further, make the huddles more work shop like for example let people use post-it notes and the whiteboard, provide a summary in the end of each session, and finally lower the price below 1000 euros which would make it an extremely competitive package.

In general conferences are a mixed bag. You never know what you will get. My main mantra is to attend various conferences outside my area of expertise to learn about the various parts of the web like seo, ppc, mobile etc, which lets me grow my online knowledge further.

If you attended I love to hear your thoughts on it.

What does it take to become an online millionaire

What does it take to become an online millionaire?
What does it take to become an online millionaire?

Let us start a website and become millionaires!

That is the opening line of a conversation I have had a hundred times.  Although I think it is the wrong approach to become a sustainable online business I want to discuss the issue from a perspective of what type of skills one need to reach that point.

First of all let us set the tone right. To succeed in online business is hard! Looking at the end result one might think it is easy but it is not. When I show my parents different websites and discuss their success I usually get the comment from that it is just pages with text and some sort of function. How hard could it be for anyone to do this?

It is hard to explain to them the knowledge and hours put into the website. After so many years they actually still do not truly understand what I do for a living. The easiest way to give them a picture on how complex things are is to consider pure online companies which employ hundreds or thousand of employees working on just one single website.

Even for people within the business who dream of becoming the next online sensation many underestimate what it takes to get there. If you truly want to be long term in your online investment you need several different skill sets. I thought I would list these to show the complexity of the issue. Here is my list of skills you need.

  1. Programmers, fronted and backend. Without programmers you are not going anywhere. It very common that programmers with an idea start successful online businesses. When they get to a certain point though their need the skills are not enough. Look at Google, both Sergei Brin and Larry Page were brilliant minds, but to grow their company they needed many other skillsets.
  2. Conversion people with web analytics skills. Of course these people are your most valuable (biased as I am) since they will help you increase your bottom line revenues. Read my post about this role here.
  3. SEO people with PPC skills. Getting “free” traffic through search engines, paid and unpaid, is usually the most profitable traffic. High converting and cheap. You need though to be on top of things because the search engines do changes all the time.
  4. Social media care takers. Social media might transform but it is not going away. It is already a very important channel for many businesses and it also strongly influate with your SEO strategy.
  5. Mobile strategy project managers that can drive your mobile strategy. The web is morphing into mobile usage and it will sooner or later impact every online business.
  6. Marketing people that take care or your affiliate network, banner investment and other marketing initiative such as competitions.
  7. Editors. Someone has to write your content, and your content sets the tone of your website and your traffic driving initiatives.
  8. Project managers that are both technical and with business skills. When you grow you will get to a point where you have departments of people and someone has to coordinate the marketing with the technological development.
  9. BI/analytics people that give you the knowledge of what users do and who are your most profitable customers are. Depending on your business model you need to know certain things about your customers.
  10. Visionary leader. All the above skills will execute the strategy the leader has set. Of course the vision can come out of a group of people but when the company grows someone has to be in charge. It is certain that you will get through highs and lows and the lows are the hard part. This is where a visionary leader that can inspire comes into place.

As you can see the number of skill set are at least ten. I might have forgotten some but starting and driving a successful online business is harder than most people think. Depending on which phase your company is you will be required to add more and more skills. This is why many companies sooner or later will demand capital to grow just like Google or Facebook. Of course I am not saying you need all these roles from the very beginning but sooner or later you will get to point where if you want to work professionally you need to add skill sets.

Hopefully you understand that becoming an online millionaire is not that easy, not that I think anyone has any illusions but when you see something on black and white it can become food for thought.

What do you think, do you agree with me or not? What is your experience with this topic?