Optimizely's Experimentation Platform Helps Businesses Conduct End-to-End Customer Experience Tests and Make Data-Driven Decisions

Optimizely's Experimentation Platform Helps Businesses Conduct End-to-End Customer Experience Tests and Make Data-Driven Decisions

TL; DR: Optimizely’s experimentation software enables professionals to enhance the value of their digital products and campaigns using evidence-based results. The intuitive platform caters to both technical and nontechnical employees, allowing companies to make data-driven decisions quickly and with confidence. With innovative solutions for data scientists and engineers in the pipeline, Optimizely is providing even more ways to help companies increase returns on investments.

During his November 4, 2008, victory speech, Barack Obama graciously thanked his campaign team for its role in securing the historic presidential win.

He wasn’t just being polite: The team members, who leveraged several innovative analytics tools and experimental methods in their digitally savvy approach, gained a well-deserved reputation as the best and brightest in the industry.

One of those team members, Director of Analytics Dan Siroker, was tasked with helping the team make data-driven online fundraising decisions. In December 2007, he leveraged a technique he learned while working as a project manager at Google to perform a revealing experiment.

“He ran an A/B test on the initial email and donation form that had a picture of Barack Obama looking quite presidential and very inspiring in front of a crowd, compared with a picture of him as a lovely family man with Michelle and the kids,” said Claire Vo, SVP of Product at Optimizely. “The results indicated that the picture with Barack as a family man would allow them to raise significantly more money.”

Optimizely logo

Optimizely empowers businesses to run marketing experiments across websites, apps, and back-end code.

After wrapping up his work on the campaign, Dan realized that experimentation and data-driven decision making could have a real financial impact, not only on campaigns but businesses across the world. He used that inspiration to found Optimizely, an online A/B testing tool that has evolved in the last nine years into a comprehensive experimentation platform used by some of the largest enterprises in the world.

Today, the SaaS platform empowers marketing and product teams to create successful digital experiences through evidence-based results. Optimizely helps both technical and nontechnical employees optimize their strategies to achieve the greatest return on investment possible. With innovative solutions for data scientists and engineers in the works, the company is demonstrating a commitment to eliminating digital guesswork.

Drive Value Through Evidence-Based Results

Through almost a decade of industry experience, the Optimizely team has observed shifting trends within the marketing space.

“Over the past couple of decades, the amount of online data that companies have on their customers and their business performance has continued to expand,” Claire said. “Making sense of that data and using it to drive significant outcomes has been a market trend that has benefited Optimizely in our charter to bring data-driven decision-making to companies.”

Claire said the trend toward digital transformations has also impacted the way companies should validate their messaging and marketing campaigns.

“Now we see every company, almost vertical-agnostic, becoming digital at the core — building digital experiences to connect with consumers online, through mobile apps, or via home devices,” she said. “And so they really have to bring in this competency of digital experience-making in-house to survive.”

Optimizely screenshot

The platform was built to validate messaging and make data-driven decisions in real time.

These companies also face immense competition from digitally native companies, such as prescription glasses retailer Warby Parker and the makeup brand Glossier, which is known for disrupting the retail industry through a mastery of social media engagement.

Optimizely worked with a team of statisticians at Standford to build a revolutionary new model for A/B testing in the internet age. In a nutshell, the framework combines false discovery rate controls with sequential testing to provide results that are valid regardless of sample size. This technique reduces the chance of error from 30% to just 5%.

Of course, Optimizely is much more than just A/B testing. The company also empowers customers like eBay, FOX, IBM, and The New York Times to manage digital innovation across the enterprise, ultimately improving conversion rates, generating more leads, and boosting overall ROI.

Expansive Support for Technical and Nontechnical Employees

Another prominent trend that has served to transform Optimizely’s business is the increasing influence of product and engineering teams in building customer experiences.

“Ten years ago, the bulk of customer experience was led by marketing teams,” Claire said. “Now we see the rise of the product manager as a significant influence in organizations, with customer experience work being done on both the front and back end.”

For that reason, Optimizely has increased focus on helping businesses manage their experimentation programs across multiple teams and projects while allowing them to scale as needed.

“We’ve really expanded our product offering to support experimentation for both technical and nontechnical employees inside a company — one of our most successful launches in the last couple of years has been our full-stack, server-side experimentation product,” Claire said.

Optimizely screenshot

Optimizely’s end-to-end approach ultimately increases ROI and improves the customer journey.

Server-side A/B testing allows variations of a test to be rendered on a web server before being delivered to the client, as opposed to client-side testing, which is rendered after a page is sent to the user’s browser. Advantages of server-side testing include minimal impact on page load time, in-depth experimentation capabilities, and experimentation through multiple channels — such as web, mobile, and email — simultaneously.

Overall, Optimizely’s multi-departmental approach unites a company’s development and marketing teams for a more holistic approach to experimentation.

“I think Optimizely is the only experimentation solution on the market that allows you to experiment end to end across the customer experience, from the front end down to the algorithms and data that run it,” Claire said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into ensuring that our customers are experimenting as much as possible across every function and that every employee feels enabled to bring experimentation to their work.”

Make a Dramatic Impact Quickly and With Confidence

To that end, Optimizely has introduced integration with commonly used workflow management solutions to provide enhanced visibility across the company. The company’s new Optimizely for Slack integration, for example, enables those using Optimizely’s Program Management tool to easily engage with experiments.

“Even if you’re not actively participating in the experimentation program, you will still have visibility and the opportunity to get excited about the experiments happening within your company,” Claire said.

She knows this from experience because Optimizely uses its own platform for internal purposes. As the executive sponsor for Optimizely’s product experimentation program, Claire uses both quantitative and qualitative research to validate the company’s product ideas.

“We drink our own champagne, as we like to say — we truly use our product both from the product perspective, which is what I oversee, as well as very significantly on the marketing side of things,” she said. “It helps us build a better product from our own user experience.”

If that isn’t enough proof of the company’s value proposition, Claire said Optimizely has an exceptionally clear ROI. “You can see A versus B, statistically, whether you made more money on one experiment variation or another,” she said. “We’re really seeing increases in revenue and customer adoption, plus decreases in attrition and churn, all due to running a successful experimentation program with Optimizely.”

Innovative New Solutions for Data Scientists and Engineers

Moving forward, Optimizely will continue to work on building solutions for the developer side of its client base.

“We’re working to understand the product and engineering customer so we can build solutions that engineers really love and then expand those capabilities into things like feature flagging, which will allow us to support the DevOps side of the business as well,” she said.

As the Optimizely team begins to work with more sophisticated enterprises on large experimentation programs, they’ve observed that data scientists and analysts play a significant role in quantifying the ROI that Claire says is so easy to measure. With that in mind, the company is building a suite of more powerful and flexible tools targeted at data scientists.

“The goal is to ensure that anybody who is super data literate can also use Optimizely data,” she said.

We wouldn’t expect anything less from a company with roots in Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign.

Christine Preusler

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