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Where's digital strategy headed in 2014?

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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To stay relevant in an increasingly digital marketplace in the year ahead, businesses will need to put a strategy in place to better embrace the opportunities offered by web and mobile channels. However, an engaging online experience that delivers solid business outcomes cannot be developed through intuition or assumption. To be profitable online, businesses need to apply rigorous, scientific testing strategies and implement insight-based solutions.

Businesses will unlock growth opportunities through optimisation across web and mobile

Just 10 per cent of businesses are currently testing to optimise their online properties. However, we expect to see an explosion in demand for testing solutions in 2014 with a view to ensuring that traditional and mobile websites are delivering against business goals such as driving revenue. We are at a tipping point with organisations starting to understand the benefit of optimisation to deliver targeted web experiences based on customer insights such as browsing history, geography or particular interests.
Businesses will also continue to invest in smart mobile strategies in line with consumer demand to access content and services on-the-go. To do this effectively they must bear in mind that each brand of smartphone, tablet or desktop presents different challenges and needs to be optimised in different ways. Companies cannot decide which devices their visitors are using and need to deliver seamless and unified user experience across all relevant platforms.
With online retailers delivering dynamic experiences to customers and publishers optimising their paywalls to maximise revenue, 2014 is going to be a big year for harnessing the power of online insight to drive revenue. With this in mind we expect to see testing and optimisation spend increasing as these technologies become a line item on budgets.

The new ‘CTO’

2014 will see the rise of the Chief Testing Officer, as businesses invest in headcount to manage their optimisation activity. Testing staff will work with marketing, customer experience and product development teams to identify testing priorities, interpret results and make recommendations for optimisation activity. Both agile start-ups and established enterprises such as Starbucks, Salesforce and The Guardian are already employing testing experts. We expect testing to become a key driver for job creation over the year ahead.

Publishers will test and personalise to drive engagement and revenue

With four UK national publications now operating a paywall system, we can expect to see local publishers adopt a smarter approach to monetising online content in 2014. Given strong consumer resistance to paywalls in the UK, publishers will increase investment in A/B testing to learn more about what readers are willing to do or pay to access content, and provide a more personal solution. Important questions include how permeable a paywall should be and how much, if any, content should be available prior to hitting a paywall.
Optimal solutions will not be developed through assumption or guess work – for publishers to be profitable online they need to apply focused testing strategies and put in place insight-based solutions to drive subscriptions. Research from Optimizely found that media organisations investing in A/B testing can achieve a 29 per cent increase in page views and a 14 per cent increase in reader engagement. Testing is also critical for driving revenue through complementary services. For example, The Guardian has used A/B testing and insight-based optimisation to drive a 46 per cent increase in subscriptions for its Soulmates dating site.

Retailers will turn to web optimisation to boost online sales beyond the festive season

John Lewis CEO Andy Street has stated that the company makes 40 per cent of its annual profits over the festive season, with a third of Christmas sales made online. Additionally, Visa reported last year saw online sales of £320m made via its credit and debit card services on Mega Monday alone.
The festive season is truly the golden goose for online retailers, but they also need to consider how they drive strong consumer engagement and revenues across the rest of the year. Online retailers must get ahead of the game to improve web user experience and boost e-commerce conversions in order to drive continued success across 2014.
Over the year ahead we will see retailers increase their focus on A/B testing and web optimistion to create dynamic, targeted customer experiences that drive revenue. Research from Optimizely has found that retailers engaging in testing see an average 13 per cent increase in customer engagement and a significant 21 per cent increase in revenue – important figures for businesses that are serious about ensuring results do not plummet once the holidays end.
Matt Althauser is the European General Manager of Optimizely.