Optimising in times of change

Department store

In these unprecedented times, the world around us is changing, with many organisations finding it hard to adapt.

The game has changed and digital has now become synonymous with survival and growth. 

Those that were dipping their toe in digital, have scaled up to levels never planned. Those that had a coexistence of digital and physical have truly embraced the connected experience.  

But how do we know what the next step is, what is the right approach and how do we make the right choice?… 

For any business to adapt and pivot, decisions… validated decisions need to be made quickly. Using the Sitecore toolset and our processes previously framed for optimisation/ personalisation we need to learn and test about the “new” normal.

Spotting new behaviours (and new users)

Sitecore path analyzer cc Sitecore

New times means the reset button has been hit to your digital audience. For some organisations digital wasn’t the primary path to sales and now it is the only path. For others whilst digital was a path to sales, it was never used in anger, and it was never a cohesive journey. And for others who are truly on their digitisation assent a whole new group of users has just turned up. 

Very quickly we need to learn. Look at your analytics to spot changes. Are there any unusual things happening? New pages looked at, new connected journeys… , 

Open up path analyser, segment by new users to see and compare flows. Do this at a global level but also page analyser level. 

Reassessing objectives and goals

For those businesses who believe in being data driven; a cohesive awareness of “why we are here” is critical (through goals, KPI’s or OKR’s). With change, we need to reassess the why. For example; for restaurants and food chains a goal would have been footfall and bookings. The past months has changed that, moving goals to online bookings or takeouts. 

Whatever you measure, now is the time to reassess the goals, the KPI’s and importantly targets…

Resetting the targets

Targets are vital in knowing whether we have succeeded. Without a target a KPI is just a number or a percent. 100k good? 99% good? A figure in isolation leaves us with no idea. 

As times change (bringing an influx of new users), your targets won’t be as relevant. For example if we look at the boom of “local delivery” craft beer breweries. During lockdown people began to inquire about home delivery. For a business this increase of new users just inquiring will initially negatively impact existing funnel progression. It is not something they can stop (new sceptical visitors). In these situations you need to reset the targets, now and review again in the coming months. 

An alternate example could be that you are the only provider of a now “must have” product. Your target for average items in the basket could be blown out of the water. 

Remember, targets are a baseline, so do state one, you can always move it as the data rolls in.

(re)Identifying the low hanging fruit

Sitecore testing preview cc Sitecore

For those with products on sale, start to mine sales data. Your product matrix will shift. Demands for a product will ebb and flow even more than normal with the instability and this has an impact on testing. Remember testing requires volume to draw significant results, so start to locate new opportunities to test.

Understanding new users

Segment creation cc Sitecore

We have mentioned finding new users, but we need to know who they are. If you use personalisation or optimisation you will be utilising segmentation in some way (Rule based, persona based…). Segments match one or more user groups, so you will probably notice large sways of un-segmented data. Start to review these users. Even create a segment that is simply anything but the other segments. We need to understand what they are doing. 

Utilizing components and IA structure for instant testing

Horizon editor cc Sitecore

This is simple logic. Your Digital Experience Platform instance needs to be a) componentised and b) structurally laid out in terms of IA. With componentisation in play, you now have the ability to swap and change at the drop of a hat. Bringing in new designs that enable testing is now super quick, and let’s face it, we needed to test yesterday. 

Having structured IA is also going to help. Storing variants together, assets together, data together… all helps to deliver and analyse tests with efficiency. 

Imagine testing from scratch? The hours and days involved with strategists and developers. However with a well built instance, Sitecore is on your side, with efficiencies galore. If you are using Horizon this is even easier!

Enabling the business to adapt with data

You (Strategist, Analyst, Scientist…) are the conduit to data. And you need to get this data to C-level. They (masked by the calm headed exterior) are indeed, like you, wondering WTFAWGTD. But you can help them. 

Give them your relevant reports and latest trends. Help them to make a decision, help them pivot, help them to put the business on a new path. 

Remembering the significance of testing and picking other methods in testing

A caveat back to testing. Testing needs significance and in the early days, you want to have it. Literally, even the biggest businesses can only a/b test on a handful of key pages. 

Remember to use data to figure this out. 

If you don’t have the traffic, you can run a “real time” test (eg analysing 2 live pages that are roughly the same product, same amount of traffic. 

Or even better, if you want to test a new idea or concept,  scale back and just test a “wizard of oz” mvp for ideas. For example, you are thinking of adding reviews or a video to a product page. Simple insert a button or link to that unreleased feature; and measure the impact. 

Be clever, start testing and start learning.


Simply put, “change” means businesses need to adapt, but before they can adapt they need to learn. Using the fundamentals of Sitecore optimisation/ personalisation, we are able to reuse these tools to find out about this change and its impact. 

Optimisation is an obvious tool to utilise for most organisations, but now more than ever, it is becoming a true enabler helping organisations rise from this crisis.

Update: if you need more guidance on optimisation within Sitecore, look no further than the great SBOS optimisation readiness checklists.

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Posted in Optimisation, Sitecore

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