Here’s how to create a cultural shift within your company — to win the resources you need and maximize the impact of your retail marketing testing and measurement strategies.
By Lane Ware, Senior Vice President, Consulting & Account Services
With the ongoing proliferation of retail marketing tools and opportunities, the need to continually evaluate and analyze your options to make optimal choices is more important than ever. But few retail marketers have adopted the testing-and-measurement discipline required to truly stay on top of today’s dynamic ecosystem.
Without accurate retail marketing testing insights, you can’t know the right percentage of your budget to appropriate to each marketing channel. You don’t know if you should participate in all of them or which ones will give you the biggest bang for your buck. And you can’t honestly compare the tried-and-true initiatives you’ve historically relied upon to the bold and bewildering new ones.
A corporate culture that strives to optimize each tactic through a data-driven strategy can make these decisions much easier by integrating the data, process and measurement into your everyday regime. The goal is to automatically evaluate your marketing and advertising investments based on financial impact rather than falling back on year-over-year plans or falling prey to competitive pressures.
Yet many retail marketers face two major stumbling blocks in adopting a testing methodology:
- Lack of resources or budget to do it right.
- Lack of buy-in from business stakeholders who will need to contribute to the data, creative, execution and measurement tasks.
To overcome these obstacles will take a cultural shift in the corporate mindset. A herculean task, yes, but it can be done.
Winning Buy-In for a Retail Marketing Testing Strategy
As with any change management process, a cultural shift will take time and will be an ongoing process. The good news is that there are some short-term steps you can take to start moving the dial while working on the more long-term cultural shift within your organization.
One approach is to start with a “big win” that culminates in a roadshow throughout the company. But you can also take a more measured approach by leveraging short-term wins to support a sound financial business case for change, setting the stage for larger commitments. Success for this approach depends on your ability to work with business stakeholders and on the ability of these stakeholders to see positive impact on selected metrics.
This process can be broken down into four specific steps:
- Internal education
- Business justification
- Planning and process
Step 1: Internal Education
Notice that we’re advocating for a cultural shift focusing on testing and optimization. It’s important for you, as well as your business stakeholders, to understand the difference and ensure that both disciplines are supported. And, before you can build the process and planning for testing, you also need to understand the difference between testing and analysis. This will make or break your efforts.
- Retail marketing testing is often time series based, modeling on before and after scenarios. You make a change, and then you compare the results before that change to the results after the change. True testing (A/B testing), however, requires a control and variant in the same time period. This decreases the potential impact of other variables, such as weather or trends, that can skew your measurement of the tests. Typically, testing can be instituted fairly easily and quickly.
- Optimization is the ongoing, data-driven process of continually identifying and quantifying the most effective methodologies, channels and processes to drive customer behavior. This not only requires the testing discipline outlined above, but also the organizational infrastructure to support it, such as defined processes, established timelines and even testing platforms. Implementing optimization is generally a longer-term goal.
- Measurement and analysis of your data set lets you find opportunities to test. You then conduct the test and analyze the results to discover insights and identify future tests. You must have the resources in place and time allocated to ensure that the tests are effectively measured and analyzed, or you won’t deliver the results to support the next step. This is an area where we see a lot of retailers fail because they don’t provide the insights/analysis from past results to justify ongoing testing.
Step 2: Business Justification
To push the cultural shift, you will need to rationalize why testing and optimization are critical to the financial success of your company. Essentially, you need to build an internal business case, which means identifying the impacted stakeholders, and determining the metrics and accountability related to their financial performance.
Typically, these stakeholders include IT (technology), Advertising (creative talent), Merchants (products), CRM/Marketing (data) and Finance (measurement). It’s also often a good idea to include Operations since they heavily influence the customer experience. Where possible, align or map your efforts to the business and financial metrics of the stakeholders to build their support.
The next step is to identify individual executives who are ready to commit to ongoing testing. Use your comprehensive list of metrics to select three to six that these stakeholders have in common and that you believe you can impact with your marketing and advertising efforts. Understand the current baseline and temper expectations by providing low- and high-range pro formas based on the testing scenarios.
Step 3: Planning and Process
Identification and mapping of existing processes, timelines and impacted resources can be conducted concurrently with building a business plan. But it’s best to have the business case fairly developed and your advocates in line before impacting other departments’ processes and planning.
For example, if Advertising is responsible for creative development, any testing that involves creative assets requires that the creative team be on board. While one-offs may “squeak” through, in the long-term the timelines and associated processes of this part of the initiative must be documented and changes approved, which will likely require stakeholder support.
At the very least you can start with your own area. If your existing processes aren’t documented or the paperwork is outdated, create an internal team to update the flow and document each touchpoint. Develop a consistent methodology, such as swim lanes, that can be used as examples for other areas.
Step 4: Advocacy
You will never achieve a cultural change without internal support. And the higher the support, the faster the vision will become reality. Look for a senior executive who can ensure that your retail marketing testing efforts — and the insights you gain — are reaching the C-suite.
- Environment of Trust – A core part of building advocacy is creating an environment of trust. Results must be believed. Ensure that the metrics and methodology have been reviewed by Finance. And share the failures in addition to the successes. Failures in the testing methodology show why an infrastructure, including processes, is needed. Or, if the “results” failed, it helps reinforce why testing and making informed decisions is critical. The test should still be perceived as a success even if the results aren’t as expected.
- Single Source of Truth – Create an accessible and visible roadmap or master plan. Keep all of your testing and optimization data in a single source. This includes test plans, business justification and results. Make it easy to find and encourage your colleagues to interact with the plan.
Create testing templates, using the same metrics and a consistent methodology. Include the executive summary, test design, results, recommendations and next steps (always include next steps!) in every report.
First Steps to Ongoing Success with Retail Marketing Testing
By tackling these four steps, you’ll be well on your way to instituting a cultural shift that embraces the testing and optimization methodology. And that will put you on track to evolve your organization’s success long into the future.
Leveraging small steps to build your case for a testing culture requires discipline within your group, and you may need to call in some favors to get things flowing. But first, look for existing projects that have established benchmarks — both internal and external. Typically, email and social media are low-hanging fruit. Then use the steps outlined below to build your short-term wins to support your long-term vision:
- Use industry metrics and case studies to show where you may be lagging or only average compared to your competitors and outline the potential impact testing can have on your targeted metrics.
- Look for testing opportunities in the part of the marketing process that you own. For example, if you are responsible for selecting the target groups, look for new segmentation strategies. Or look at potential efficiencies by narrowing down your selections.
- Share results with your colleagues.
- Always share the objective, methodology and the results on both the actual test and a potential rollout of the strategy.
- Tie your results to upstream metrics to help the executive stakeholders see the impact on their goals (improved inventory turn, increased dollar per square foot, enhanced customer experience resulting in improved CSAT, etc.).
- Set up calendar in advance and work back to when artwork/assets will be needed – give realistic timelines to your colleagues in other departments who are impacted.
How can CCG help you institute a retail marketing testing, measurement and optimization mindset in your company? From building your business case to developing testing strategies and analyzing results, review the capabilities and services that our retail marketing experts can leverage to build your company’s success. For a one-on-one discussion, call us at 800.525.0313 or email us today.