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The Surprisingly Important Element of Successful Testing

Source: http://bit.ly/aPzFlC

I’ve had a lot of positions at my current company (ClickEquations, formerly Commerce360), but one of the ones I most enjoyed was a multivariate testing project I did with a large entertainment provider.

In preparing for the project, I read a ton about testing, what to test, past tests that worked, etc. There is no shortage of information about what to test or how to test it (see. www.WhichTestWon.com, for example).

What surprised me about the experience was that very little time was spent talking about the most important elements of a successful test: people.

Specifically, the people you need to help you with a test.

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CRO & Big Companies

If you manage your own website, launching a test happens in an afternoon and you’re making the calls. If you’re heading up a conversion rate project for a website with hundreds of thousands of visitors a day, it quickly becomes a project convincing people to help you test with some conversion rate optimization attached.

That was the case for the company I worked with, as it was one of their first forays into testing. Getting momentum required buy-in from several key stakeholders:

  1. Champion – We had an awesome internal advocate who prioritized the project and rallied the troops. He served as the central point of contact to coral everything on the client side while my coworker (the account manager) and I got to focus on the testing.
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  2. Executive Sponsorship – The client had to lay out money for both software (we used SiteSpect) and our consulting fees. Working on our project also meant diverting hours for contributing departments (see below) from other projects to testing.
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  3. Development Buy-In – Every testing project involves some changes to your site in one way or another: DNS changes, tags in footers, Mboxes, etc. The bigger the site, the more cautious the IT and development team. You need to get in their sprint cycle. I recommend you choose a technology that allows you to ask for help from development once and then permits changes on the fly afterward.
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  4. Creative – Someone has to create all of those test variations and in bigger companies, they generally have to be sensitive to brand guidelines or other restrictions. More importantly, you need an ally on the creative team who is will to let you butcher their work and possibly test something that, from a design perspective, they may not necessarily agree with.
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  5. Analytics – Chances are, there is already someone in the company doing analytics or, as was the case for my client, statistics. You’re going to need access to analytics data to design an effective test and they might even review it with you.

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Converstion Team Optimization

Testing can fundamentally change how a business operates and where decision making power lies. It also involves new and different business processes. That is to say, testing means change. People, especially bigger companies, are often slow to change.

In my experience, a great Champion and Executive Sponsor set the tone for the rest of the team. They approve budgets, timelines and the allocation of resources. A great process and communication help win over the rest of the team, but that’s for another blog post.

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