A Conversion Conversation with Dentsu Aegis Network’s Ric Riley
In theory, running an Experimentation program is simple and straight-forward — understand what you need to achieve, have a solid methodology, and maintain strong communication channels with stakeholders. However, the devil is in the countless details. I recently spoke to Ric about his approach to Experimentation, how the ensures all the bases are covered while always delivering value to his clients.
Rommil: Hi Ric, thanks for taking the time to speak today! Considering recent global-events, how have you been?
Ric: Hi Rommil, I’m very well thank you. Recent events have certainly had an impact on us all, but fortunately, I am able to continue working from home.
Likewise. I wonder how much work-life will change at the other end of this. It’ll be interesting to see.
So, let’s start. How about you share with our readers what you do and how you got to where you are today?
After creating my first website at the age of 11 I knew I wanted to build a career online. Due to the lack of courses, I decided not to go to University and head straight into employment, so I could work in areas that interested me.
Wow — that’s very relatable. I also worked at a local University doing those exact things. Small world! Please go on.
One day a friend called me about an exciting new Conversion Rate Optimisation role at Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN). I had always wanted to work for an agency and after a brief chat I knew that CRO would be a perfect fit for my pretty unusual skill set, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
This was a very exciting time, CRO was still in its infancy and there was a huge sense of opportunity working with ambitious clients looking to drive as much efficiency as possible.
During my time at DAN I have worked with more than 70 different businesses delivering hundreds of a/b tests. Our Conversion and Analytics team has grown from strength to strength, increasing in size by 2400% since my arrival in 2013.
That’s pretty amazing! And what about these days?
Today my role (although still technical) is now more strategy-based, I also manage a team of 10 amazing technical CRO specialists across the UK.
I, as I’m sure many of our readers, would love to know how you set goals for Optimisation at Dentsu Aegis?
Our goal is a simple one, to deliver value to our clients.
To do this we need to understand wider business objectives which are discussed and reviewed every single week.
On some occasions, we will challenge and create new business objectives/goals if the current ones are not easily measurable.
How do you communicate them and ensure everyone is working on the right things?
It sounds obvious but there is no substitute for regular meetings with both client and strategy leads to ensure we’re fully aligned.
I’ve used a number of project management solutions over the years, but I find that anything that has a usable kanban board (Trello, Jira, Workfront, Notion, Monday) works best for us.
“…there is no substitute for regular meetings with both client and strategy leads to ensure we’re fully aligned”
How do you decide where to start optimizing?
We first look at accessibility and site speed as hygiene factors. Once this has been completed we create an ‘opportunity model’ from analytics data. In a nutshell, this breaks down all pages across a website and calculates the potential for each page. For example, if we increase users searching from the homepage, or add to basket clicks from the product page, what impact will that have ultimately have on sales. We then use this as a base to understand where best to start optimizing.
“…we create an ‘opportunity model’ from analytics data.”
How do you manage expectations of senior leaders who are eager to see progress and results?
All of our clients are eager to see results, but due to the nature of testing, it’s impossible to know how much impact we will have and when. So it’s important to educate senior leaders in the methodology to help manage those expectations.
When this isn’t possible we lean on our own case studies to help manage it the best we can.
Where do you think this industry will be in 5 years?
I believe (and hope) that more businesses will adapt CRO methodologies outside of their websites, from store layouts to delivery packaging everything will be researched and tested (as it should be).
A few years ago I would’ve said that machine learning would be used to speed up testing, however, having used a number of ML testing technologies I still think that basic a/b testing will continue to the best option for most businesses.
Who do you consider as leaders in this space?
I’ve just finished an excellent book called “Making Websites Win” by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson. They have been working in the space for longest and claim to have even coined the phrase Conversion Rate Optimisation.
Also, I have listened to Paul Boag’s podcasts for many years, he’s always incredibly insightful and enthusiastic about UX, design and development.
I have to check those out! And now, it’s time for the Lightning round!
Bayesian or Frequentist?
Bayesian — but high five if you’re using either.
Biggest pet peeve when it comes to Experimentation?
What is your favourite book?
Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
If you couldn’t work in Experimentation, what would you do?
I’d start my own Coffee business
Describe Ric in 5 words or less
Coffee-loving technology geek
Thank you, Ric, for joining the conversation!
Thank you, this was fun.
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