For many companies and organisations, a digital strategy is becoming an integral part of their business planning. But the web is fluid and ever changing in nature, which means creating a digital strategy that lasts for years may seem futile. Knowing what you want a digital strategy to deliver to your business is certainly the place to start. Do you want it to deliver more qualified sales leads? More cost efficient customer services? More online sales? To launch new products?
Setting business goals might seem like the easy part when compared to creating a digital strategy that will meet the goals. When it comes to the web, the problem is that there is no way of knowing definitively, what will work well and what will work less well. What works for others may not work for you. What works today may not work in twelve months time. And your most successful digital tactic may not yet be available to you.
With so much uncertainty, it’s a wonder that there is any value in setting out a digital strategy at all. But doing nothing is unlikely to be the best option. Therefore, the qualities of successful digital strategy are exploration, experimentation, education, adaptability and advancement. And if that’s beginning to sound like the basis of the scientific method it’s because that there are some striking parallels.
Let’s explore how the scientific method can be used as a fitting framework for online success.
Every venture or project on the web starts with an initiative or a set of business goals. A digital strategy is how you intend to execute and deliver on these goals. The level to which you will achieve success is uncertain. There may be comparisons with other websites in your industry that you can draw parallels with but your website and digital marketing will probably differ in several ways. And so other websites can be a good benchmark for the results you can expect, but your results will not be the same. The only way to get your results is by finding out for yourself. Effectively, conducting experiments to test your theories.
Experiments can be run in all shapes and sizes but ultimately it means each experiment will determine how well your website performs against your goals. Experiments might be digital marketing experiments conducted offsite or changes to existing webpages onsite. It’s best if each experiment can be designed to test the impact of a specific change. The more changes made before conducting an experiment, the less probable it will be to isolate any specific change that altered the performance. Therefore experiments are usually conducted with ever decreasing levels of refinement to achieve optimum performance.
Observation and Measurement
The good news about measuring website performance, is that nearly everything can be observed and measured. There is no shortage of services and tools that will allow you to analyze in great detail, exactly what is occurring on your website. Every entry, every page, every click, every movement, every comment, every form completed and every exit can be captured and analyzed. This is how website performance analysis can be likened to the scientific process.
Should the results differ to what was expected or hoped for, we can look closely to discover what worked well and what didn’t. The fundamental aim of website measurement and analysis is to discover what further changes might be made to improve the results.
Rarely do we get it right first time and the greater the change being tested; the less the results are predictable. You may not achieve the desired result by conducting an experiment but at least you have learned something valuable, that you could never have known before. With the knowledge gained, further modification experiments can be designed. The modification and experimentation process is now repeated and so too is the cycle of education and continual improvement.
Learning from Others
To borrow an expression made famous by perhaps the greatest scientist of them all, Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.” By this he meant, that although his achievements were great, it was only possible because he built upon the work of others before him.
And so it is with high performing websites. The web is ever changing but the successes and failures that have gone before can inform your strategy. There is no need to start from scratch but you do need to commit to a programme of ongoing learning. You can learn from books, blog articles, social learning, webinars, online courses, industry and academic research and of course by your own and other’s experiments. There is no shortage of learning opportunities.
Success online is not easy, but with the right digital strategy, you can learn to be successful.
What big lessons have you learned by running an online experiment?