Sharing insights, AI and the future of CRO with Tim Thijsse

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Tim Thijsse 0:00
Machine learning, learning and deep learning and AI to transform the data that they have into information into, into knowledge. So you can recognize that it’s a certain user, you can recognize that from a certain device. And it’s actually clicking something. But it’s not transforming it in to an insight. And that’s where it’s still a challenge for us to link the user behavior, and the mindset to that certain knowledge and information.

Claire More 0:40
All right, I am here with Tim Thijsse. I’m Claire from experiment nation here. I’m here with Tim Thijsse. He’s a senior CRO consultant at Orange Valley. Today, we’ll be talking about the evolution of CRO and the importance of incorporating qualitative research into company wide processes. So thanks, Tim, for being on the podcast with us today. Thank you for having me.

Claire More 1:11
So let’s start off with a bit about you and your background. Like what brought you into the world of CRM as it relates to what we’ll be chatting about?

Tim Thijsse 1:21
Okay, yeah, so it all started, I think, around 2005, when I started as an interaction designer for a serious gaming company. I just graduated from the Art Academy in Rotterdam, within the corner Acadamy. And I was focusing on interaction design. And I was making serious games for the fire department and for the Marines, and it’s like, I was responsible for thinking about the interaction with the mouse and then translate that to an action, for instance, like, using a chainsaw in a 3d environment. So that’s where I started with the, the thinking about the interaction with, with the computer interaction with with the mouse, and how can you optimize that? And also the user interface where they click etc, etc. But that was still a bit focused on how does it look like? How is the interaction going? Not really on zero, right. So after that, I worked for a company that’s called north of ICT favors. So that’s a big publishing agency. And I was working for the mathematic books in the Netherlands for the primary school. And I had to translate those, the offline exams to online exams. So I was really focusing on that for the first, I think, eight years of my career. And after I’ve been working for an internet agency in Antwerp as well, internet architects, it was called, I was responsible for creating the design systems for their clients and making websites for sites like Carrefour and Nike, and I returned back and work for the insurance company. And then I became product owner for Websites for Insurance Companies. In healthcare. It already shifted a bit from actually working on the interaction design into managing and thinking about the needs of the customer, but also thinking about the stakeholders within the company. And that’s where became interesting for me, but also less interesting because I’m not really working with the websites anymore. So I was really doing more project management and managing people instead of thinking about what should be on the websites. From that point, I decided I wanted to go back into the field. And I wanted to start with the so called UX design role, which didn’t exist in 2000. But then in a couple of years later, there was a new role called UX designer, which really fit fitted me as a glove because I was really focusing on facial and how to apply can interpret that for the customer experience. That was really awesome. And that’s where I really got in touch with zero actually. So, at that time, Tom wrestling was still very active as the directing role there. Together with From the back, who was working in my team, for clients like from the fog or for sago, KPN I started working for online dialogue, and I got in touch with the zero, the psychological aspects of persuasive designs and an etching. So I got in touch with the Cialdini principles and conversion pyramid, etc, etc. So I really got excited by how you can help the users in going to the next step. And not only doing that visually, but also with the message that you’re sending out as a website or as a company. At that time, I still had epilepsy. So I used it as epilepsy since I was, I think eight. So for quite quite a long time. And I got dizzy, like, every day. And if I was really active, and it was sporting a good even have blackout. So yeah, it was, it was a time where I was really focusing on my health, and seeing if we can get treatment for it. And I was able to do an operation, where they treat me from, they remove the source of the epilepsy from my brain. And yeah, and yeah, and since then, I didn’t have any seizures at all. But I was convinced that zero was something I really wanted to focus on. And that’s when I started to help other companies with setting up zero programs

Claire More 6:44
you’ve been working in CRO, kind of over the evolution of it. So I’d love to hear, you know, how has CRO evolved, in your opinion? Or your from your perspective? And where do you see it kind of going in the near future? Actually, kind of a third part to that question, as I saw that we attended the same event on LinkedIn about about TPT, and how it how what its uses are in experimentation. So I would love to, I mean, it’s a super hot topic right now. So I would love to hear kind of how you see what role you see that playing, you know, the future of CRO

Tim Thijsse 7:28
the future circle see ago, we have a lot of specialists in the fields for IT system wrestling. Saying that we have to focus on culture of experimentation. And then you have a man or the Casa saying that zero is that and that we don’t have to focus on zero. And if you read those statements, it might be contradictory. But in the essence, they’re staying exactly the same. And what they’re saying is that it’s not about being zero, it’s not about a zero t that you have to put somewhere inside the company that you have to train. And and it’s not about that you have to decide how you set up your CRO, right. You might be a centralized team with a multiple disciplinary team focusing on zero. And it might be a decentralized team, where you have different working fields, and they own they all have their own zero specialist or you have a center of excellence and just have power users in those teams. Right. So that might also be certain setup. But Don Wessling is saying there’s there needs to be a culture of experimentation. And what it means by that is that is you have to change the sort of mindset of everybody inside the company. And what Immanuel saying is, the zero is dead. It’s not only zero it’s like the mindset of experimentation, and always be optimizing. That is important.

Rommil Santiago 9:16
This is Rommil Santiago from experiment nation. Every week we share interviews with and conference sessions by our favorite conversion rate optimizers from around the world. So if you liked this video, smash that like button and consider subscribing it helps us a bunch now back to the episode.

Claire More 9:30
And I mean, getting too caught up in the acronym CRO is dangerous as well. But what kind of potential challenges do you think companies might face when you know trying to adopt an experimentation mindset or as being one person trying to encourage the company to adopt an experimentation mindset and how can we overcome or how can companies overcome those challenges?

Tim Thijsse 9:57
There are challenges in three different fields. So the first one is your strategy. So I’ll come back to that later. The second one is operation. So how do you execute it? And the third one is? Well, the technical part, right, so then you come with AI, etc, etc, but also also the challenge with first first party data and cookies, client side cookies, bing, bing calm. And if I’m starting with the first one, the strategy part is, this is really important to understand as a company that you have to decide what your program your optimization programs should focus on. Is it on transformation? So do you want to learn from it? Do you want to optimize and improve your services or products? Or is it really focusing on transaction, so you really want to have more conversion rate, you want to have more people going to the next phase in your user journey, etc, etc. So if you can decide what you want to focus on as a company, you can also see that most of the time transaction is focused on short term, and estimates focus on long term. So if, if that’s program that you’re running, or that that optimization strategy that you’re having is not a sync with the goals of the company, and the metrics of the companies as well, I come back to the later is, yeah, then you’re already losing your battle. So besides being in sync with the roadmap of your company, but the roadmap of also the product teams, it’s also important to have a common understanding for what metrics that you want to focus on. So if you’re focused on transaction, then most of the times conversion rate transformation might be bigger goal, right? NPS CSAT customer ever score more, focusing on the total experience. And I’m seeing now that it used to be a zero team focusing on web, and then maybe a growth team focusing on email or other channels. And now it’s expanding. So it’s not only the quantitative data, the but also the qualitative data is becoming more important.

Claire More 12:48
Right? Yeah, that’s, I mean, this is something that I’m definitely passionate about, and something that I use, you know, very heavily in my my CROs or my testing strategies, is surveying customers and, you know, pre purchase polls, stuff like that are really give you like, the reasons why people might not be purchasing aside from just seeing that they’re not. Yeah, it’s, yeah, definitely, definitely important. So how do you? I mean, aside from specifically testing strategies, how do you find companies incorporating like qualitative insights into their overall optimization or experimental mindset?

Tim Thijsse 13:35
So beer off, didn’t really have had a customer centric approach, right? They really had a profit focused goal. But they changed their their mission and vision and to being more of an experience also having it downdraft machine at home being a more total experience. They also were focusing on different metrics. And having a discussion with the with management, they decided to focus on the NPS score. So NPS score is of course, a marketing metric, a net promoter score. It’s not really my favorite metric. But I think it’s something that multiple teams can work with. And that’s even more important than the actual metric that you have, is having a common metric with different teams. Because if you have your silos, which might be still exist in a lot of companies, most of the time they have their own KPIs and the metrics, that’s where they’re focusing on and if that KPI is not contributing, or might be even contradictory to the other silo, then It’s never gonna work to work together to have a total experience. So if you have a common KPI, then you can both focus on that and, and have more interaction within those two teams, or other teams, on how to cooperate with it, and how to work with each other. And that’s the next step where you also can see a shift in the type of experiments that are coming. Because we had, like last year, and also this year, but it’s already changing a little bit is that we had really gentle focused experimentation. This I’m calling it giving a talk on digital marketing live as well, about the different types of experimentation that I see coming. But we used to have omni channel best, right, they have email that’s doing a B testing, for instance website that’s doing a B testing, but not really the interaction between each other because they both have different targets. Now, if you bring those KPIs or targets together, they then there starts in discussion on how to improve it. And then you’ll see that there’s going to be experiments running on multi channel level. And that’s where it becomes interesting to see that, that it’s not really being CRO and conversion focused on the website and conversion or click to rate focused on email. But it’s, it’s getting wider. And that’s why it’s, it’s becoming the customer experience optimization. And that’s where zero is going to. So zero is actually still the modality of experimentation. But CXO is being a broader way of experimenting, within channels, but within us or phases, etc. And now you can, you can start even with during your presentation. So think about a certain kind of customer would like to be contacted differently. So you can do a different approach. That’s where data comes in. And that’s really important to have the right data to offer the best experience,

Claire More 17:20
right? So you said CXO, that’s customer experience optimization versus CRO,

Tim Thijsse 17:26
the optimization is never gonna leave, right. But the conversion rate focus is. So that’s why it’s now the biggest focus of companies is CSL, this is customer experience optimization. And it’s looking in a broader perspective on how to optimize within the company and not only within the silos that they have.

Claire More 17:52
Hmm, super interesting. So in terms of, you know, the new era of AI and machine learning, where do you see that kind of fitting into this customer experience optimization? Or do you see it helping in any way? In the qualitative?

Tim Thijsse 18:11
Yes, aspect? Yes, definitely. Yeah, definitely. So I’m, I’m, I’m playing with, with AI as well. So I’m just seeing what what he can do with customer reviews of clients, to see how we can apply different AI solutions. For instance, use topic modeling, where you let AI decide which topics are important, and sentiment analysis to also see if AI can recognize the sentiment in a certain review, to get an overview of what our topics might frustrate customers and what topic uses really liked. So that’s where you can focus and can understand what your use fees are, and what your pain points are based on the feedback of your customers. Now, that’s very interesting to focus on and to see how you can get that qualitative paid data in the same track, or the same way you would treat the quantitative data. And last year, and the year before, there are were already a lot of tools using machine learning, learning and deep learning and AI to transform the data that they have into information into into knowledge. So you can recognize that it’s a certain user, you can recognize that from a certain device, and it’s actually clicking something. But it’s not transforming it in to an insight and that’s where still at challenge for us to link the user behavior and the mindset to that certain knowledge and information. And that’s where the actionable insights come in, where you can act upon as a company.

Claire More 20:17
I 100%. Agree. I think this might be you know, controversial, but I do think in all the fields of marketing, I think, you know, CRO, and optimization are one of the, like safest industries in terms of like being replaced by an AI, just because it still requires so much, you know, human interaction and decision making and interpreting of like, the insights that AI provides.

Tim Thijsse 20:51
Yeah, yeah. And it’s, it’s a bit. Of course, it’s a shame that some people might need to change their habits in order to still keep their jobs. But yeah, it is, the world is changing, right? There’s, there’s a certain wave coming where you need to adapt, or you’re just lacking and falling behind. So it’s really important as a company to play and explore the new functionalities and the new possibilities they that they is to offer. And it’s not that you have to really focus on everything that matters, or that that is, I mean, that is related to AI, right, some some solutions work and some solutions might not work. So you’re half your, your meat journey, and you visualization AIS, that might not even be interesting for your company. But if you’re focusing GDP, and you have actually have a dialogue with your customers, and you can improve the dialogue, or improve the speed of that dialogue and help them, then it’s of course, very interesting to focus on how you can reduce the amount of time that you spent into communicating with the customer.

Claire More 22:22
Mm hmm. For sure. Okay, let’s circle back to the evolution of CRO to Ward’s like an experimentation culture. So you said Step one is to kind of get all of the teams working together on a common KPI that’s directly relevant to the success of the business. What would you say your like step two and beyond would be after that.

Tim Thijsse 22:50
I think that Lucas from your state did very well in a lot of football scouts. That it’s not always something that you have to demand from from above, right? Because setting a common KPI or metric is something that has to be decided from management or sea level, where you can have something to focus on. But next to that, there’s also the button to top approach that you have that you can do as well. And that’s where it becomes interesting to see if you can store those insights. Not only in your eBay, a B testing tool, but stored in something that is approachable for the entire company to use. So next to having an optimization platform, you also need to create an I’m calling it an insight platform. So if you create a platform where not only either insights, and particularly saying insights and that results, right, where the insights are coming into the platform, and it’s approachable for everybody, from for instance, your your growth marketing team. But it’s also getting qualitative insights for from your research team, or your UX team, then it creates a bigger understanding that everybody is trying to learn something. And that that insights platform is the to start with. And if you want to create something, it’s interesting to see what is already available and what other teams already have focused on. Is it a topic that’s already been researched by in a different team? Is it something that you can utilize is are the insights in in certain approaches for customers? Do we are this the other team already has personas, right? That might even be different sometimes. So yeah, that’s, that’s the bottom line. approach where you create awareness of what for learning platform and that everybody can contribute.

Claire More 25:07
Mm hmm. Yeah, I think that’s super valuable. And something I relate to. I’ve seen, I’ve noticed, I’ve had experience a lot of times with just siloed learning. So you know, paid teams learning something from their ads, AV testing, and what keywords are working what what language is working really well. And it’s not being communicated to the web, the web team in their copywriting, and vice versa. So I think, you know, making insights that come from all of these different research avenues available company wide is super valuable to everyone, for sure, and I don’t, I definitely don’t think that it’s practiced enough. What are some ways other than, you know, surveying people, outside of kind of the web space, which is what I personally am familiar with, in terms of gaining or collecting qualitative research, what are some other ways you know, that other aspects of the of the business can, can take? Or how can other aspects of the business you know, collect qualitative research, when I

Tim Thijsse 26:17
worked for that retail company that was selling TVs, like the blotter, DeFay. But now, now, I think now, it’s called Hello, TV. We just took our took our forms and went to stores, they did 10, actual physical stores. So it’s also it was also possible for us to see how much traffic we were actually sending to that store. And if it had a success, by tracking somebody’s location and pushing them to, to the nearest store. But if they came to the store, then we had like, two ways that we were doing user research. So the first one is, how did you get here? That’s the first question. What’s the website? Yes or no. But the second questions were following on how their journey was, and how is the expectation of the store meeting up with what retelling is on the website, because then you can think about the entire journey, and also thinking about, if it’s in sync with, with what you’re having on in the store. So that was very interesting for us to see. And the second one is actually field research. So we, they were developing a new website, and we had some new ideas. And we just went into the stores and asked people, right, what, what do you prefer? How do you like this, this, this site? Or do you like this? Do you find it more attractive or not?

Claire More 28:03
And I was just curious to know, you know, maybe there isn’t another answer to this. But I was curious to know, like, what other ways there are of collecting qualitative research? Or qualitative insights from like, other teams on on a, in a in a company, but I suppose you answered that question. So

Tim Thijsse 28:23
yeah, and also having really getting in touch with your customer care team as well. Because they are getting questions. They might have really impactful feedback from customers. And it might not always be for the web. But it is something that you have to store in your learning environment or, or your your ideation process to see where it fits. Because if it’s an actual insight, it might not be for work. But it might be for logistics, for instance, or product development or product development, especially stuff like stuff like that. Yeah. And that’s for for Bill, we also notice that and because Bill is part of Hanka. And so sitting right next to Heiniger, that we noticed there wasn’t really an interaction between like the Hynek experience, so that’s fine. You can see him sitting next to it. And like the beautiful for 200 systems. But we did have, for instance that systems standing in in the museum there. So it’s important to not think about only about online touchpoint also think about offline touch points, because now they’re experimenting with having QR codes in the museum next to the old draft systems to see if we can attract customers to our view of website and and to interest them into purchasing a product for them. But

Claire More 30:01
I loved your take on how, you know, moving away from a siloed optimization or CRO focused strategy within a company and moving towards more of an experimentation culture. I loved that. The idea of you know, sharing all of your insights across the company, so that everyone can utilize all of the work that everyone’s done. All of the insights everyone in the company has, has gained and using that to help contribute to a common goal. Was all super interesting, keeping the optimization alive in the future of AI? And yeah, this new era that we’re in. And aside from that, is there anything else you wanted to tell us about? Anything you’ve got going on in your life?

Tim Thijsse 31:01
I do have things going on in my life. So besides, besides being CXO, specialist at Orange Valley, I’m also a firefighter. So Oh, wow. Yeah. And, of course, working hybrid really empowered me to also pursue that, like a child dream of mine, which I weren’t able to pursue, because I used to have epilepsy, of course. And and now when I work from home, I’m allowed to, so set my paper on and be available for for any kind of call or emergency call that’s that have to come up for

Claire More 31:51
wow, that’s really impressive. This is one of those things that have you ever played that icebreaker game? Where do you have to? Like, for truth? Yeah, four things. And one of them’s a lie. And all of them are one of them screw, all of them are like, that would be a really great one to bring up.

Tim Thijsse 32:10
So so one thing I want to add to that, because being a firefighter really helped me get a certain focus and perspective on experimentation as well. So I’m not only experimenting on the website, but also experimenting with what I like. So for instance, we’re showing that education of being a firefighter, and etc. But it’s helped me because if you’re training to become a firefighter, it’s not only about fighting fires, right? It’s not only about validation, it’s not only about making something that doesn’t work of that breaking down, making sure or preventing it from from from breaking down. It’s also about the, the safety care that you do, right, you have your emergency access while you’re doing the IQ pretest and a B testing. So if it doesn’t work, you can just take the emergency exit, but you also have your weekly practice where you discuss the learnings with our other teams and other other corpses to to understand what you can improve in your safety and how you can educate others to focus on your safety and have for instance, have your smoke detector in your house to really prevent the fire from happening. Right. And that’s how it turns out that it’s not only for you as a firefighter to make sure that the fire is out but also educate others on how to put up your smoke detector in your house. So you can already understand that something’s going on even though when you’re not aware of that it might have an effect in the future

Claire More 34:04
preventative Wow, that’s super interesting. Really cool. I think you might be met well maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a whole you know, branch of that of people like you but I think you might be the only person working in CX our CFO who’s a CRO firefighter.

Tim Thijsse 34:25
For what I know, and now I’ve haven’t met anybody else. So So for now, it’s by my my personal branding and you use p as a as a person, I think. So we put out

Claire More 34:39
fires. Nice. And I know you mentioned this a minute ago, or a short while ago, but you said you were speaking at an upcoming conference.

Tim Thijsse 34:55
Yeah, so the eighth of June. There’s a conference called the Digital Marketing live in Amsterdam. And I will be speaking together with one for good client with us the Heineken Experience. And that bar will be about the future of Xero. Also a little bit about the topics, especially about the topics that we mentioned. But then I will also have some visual support with the models and templates amusing for that. And we will talk a little bit on how the Hynek experience is working on being more customer centric, listening to the voice of the customer and using that as input for the optimization process instead of only looking at data. So that’s a really interesting one. If you want to really understand where it’s optimization is heading to in the future.

Claire More 36:01
I’m excited to try some Heineken and see if these you know experiments or optimizations are improving the taste of the Heineken. Clay my brother’s a brewer. Sorry. Oh, yeah, he’s a brewer. And so he actually told me that a lot of Heineken is brewed. Not it’s brewed. Where is it for? I don’t know, somewhere in South America or something?

Tim Thijsse 36:28
I don’t Yeah, yeah. There are different different breweries? That’s correct. Yeah. And also, what is nice to see if you’re ever coming to Amsterdam with your partner, is that they now have an experience now as a studio on top of their building. And it’s called the anchor studio, where they have a roof terrace. And that’s where they are experimenting with different flavors. So at the bar, you can have your your Heineken beer cocktails. So they are selling beer cocktails now and see how the audience dynamic experiences, if they’re liking it, and if they should pursue making different mixes of, of beer flavors to get. Hmm,

Claire More 37:22
interesting. I like that. While we can diversify their data sample a little bit. Yeah. Canadians show up there. Well, it was amazing talking to you and meeting you. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Tim Thijsse 37:41
Yeah. My pleasure. And I’m sure we’ll be meeting again if we’re in their experimentation world.

Claire More 37:51
Yes, definitely. Well, thank you so much, and have a good rest of your evening.

Tim Thijsse 37:58
Yeah, thank you. Bye. Bye.


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