Superstar DJs Are Changing the Face of Optimization

You know how I feel about testing — and if you don’t, it basically boils down to this: it’s essential. From where I sit, delivering relevance at scale is at the epicenter of digital-marketing success, and to that end, testing and optimization are essential to every organization at _every _level of optimizational maturity. Testing should be iterative, informative and leveraged to make smart, data-driven decisions across all corners of your business. And excuses like, “I don’t know how,” “I don’t know what to test,” and “no one here does that,” don’t hold water for me. Simply, there’s no standalone marketer out there with a good enough gut or split-second processing and reaction time needed to deliver the kind of spot-on relevance that consumers demand at scale. You can’t see it, take it in, and spit out a personalized moment in time every single time and get it right on your own. By testing and leveraging the data from those tests through manual and automated personalization initiatives, though, you can excel.

Need more inspiration? There are some companies who are killing it at the testing and optimization game and reaping incredible rewards at every turn. Just look at Giles Richardson, the Head of Analytics for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). He’s turned the process into something so riveting, so cool, and so cutting edge that I can’t help but be a bit of an optimization voyeur. It’s just so impressive — and I think amazingly motivating — for marketers and brands at every optimizational-maturity level. If you’re already optimizing in a big way, great. This could be an aspirational next step for you. If you’re just starting out, consider this the glimmer in the distance. It’s there, and it’s enough to keep you pushing ahead as you rack up win after win, optimization success after optimization success.

So what is RBS doing that’s so impressive? They’ve got an incredible award winning team, and they’re testing like fiends. They call this group their “Superstar DJ” program, and it’s comprised of 50 Journey Managers who are 100 percent analytics focused 100 percent of the time. No “journey” — their term for any customer experience — goes out without a test, and ultimately, without being optimized to be as spot-on as possible. Journey Managers are empowered by Giles and his management group to work together as a team to ensure they get _the most _out of every single customer journey. For them, it’s more philosophical than anything, and ultimately, a big part of what RBS stands for. Their website proudly touts that they’ve made a “public commitment to becoming the UK’s number one bank for customers.” For customers— not for investors or for big businesses. For customers— _all _customers. And that experience culminates in an investment in and commitment to the Journey Managers and their team’s strategic initiatives.

Incidentally, that’s why RBS dubbed them “DJs”:

We used the theme of a top DJ feeling connected to the audience he was playing to, and gauging what they needed. He would experiment with new content and instantly see if it was going down well. If it wasn’t he would change it almost instantly. He was cognitive that audiences change depending on where they come from and over time. Most importantly he had the tools and the skill to do it all himself.

They are, then, the DJs of the optimization universe — also a very cool and very spot-on analogy. And there’s a lot any marketer can draw from this whether you’re part of an optimization-centric team or a testing island. Giles’s Journey Manager team is empowered and inspired to do great things — their mantra is “own the moment,” which I think says it all. They’re approaching every experience on an RBS digital property with that eye and that empowerment. The overarching process builds on “a flexible analytics implementation via a tag management system,” with each Journey Manager being responsible for a particular stage of the consumer journey and how customers and prospects interact with the brand during those specific moments. Their dashboards show real-time interactions with those specific areas, enabling them to see where any hurdles exist and presenting them with the capabilities to test and troubleshoot immediately as needed.

For RBS, it’s so personal and so experience oriented. I’ve seen plenty of organizations that drill down on the functional responsibilities that surround their digital platforms — someone hits the homepage, and you’re responsible for that touchpoint, for example. Instead, for the Superstar DJs and RBS as a whole, it’s entirely about owning the moment and leveraging testing and optimization to make meaningful, high-value, highly relevant experiences through every single step of every single user journey … the increasingly successful, increasingly positive journeys.

What’s also so interesting here is that, by integrating that personal touch to every aspect of the optimization process, RBS is able to suss out unique, human circumstances that might be missed through other analytic and automated workflows. I love this example — the RBS mobile app enables users to get cash from ATMs even when they don’t have their cards. The feature was originally intended for emergencies — you lose your wallet or your debit card, and still, you can snag a few bucks to hold you over. But the Journey Manager team doesn’t see that much true “emergency” use. Instead, they saw a sharp uptick in non-card withdrawals on weekends, specifically late at night in high-traffic locations — when the pubs were closing.

People were clearly snagging cab fare to get them from their night out back to their homes throughout the city. If RBS’s DJ team hadn’t looked at the whole picture and seen the clear, human context at play here, a core use of this key feature would have been overlooked. I’m all for automated personalization, machine learning, and data-driven approaches, but the numbers alone, in this case, couldn’t have infused this situation with the level of personal insight and illumination that the Journey Managers could. And I’m sure there are countless other anecdotes just like this one.

So back to the meat of it all, back to rolling up your brand’s collective sleeves and pulling out some actionable next steps from the RBS example. I know, right off the bat, some of you reading may think, “That’s great, but I don’t have 50 people to run my testing and optimization program.” And I get that. But there’s still plenty to draw on in the short term, plus aspirational goals for the future. What’s interesting about the Superstar DJ push — and something any company can draw from — is that RBS’s Journey Managers are empowered to do everything themselves. So whether you’re one person or 100 people, the lesson is really to roll up your sleeves and get to it by finding ways to get more in tune with customers and make real-time decisions and changes as needed. We know RBS’s program grew their optimization capabilities exponentially and generated more than $1.5 million in incremental revenue. And each individual Journey Manager played a vital role in this success. So whether you’re one or one of many, there are successes to be earned through a DJ-inspired method.

Beyond that there’s the incredible philosophies and best practices of the Superstar DJ program, which I think can be leveraged for any business — big or small, local or global, financial or content driven. Be customer focused. Make sure you’re always tapped in to what’s happening on the “dancefloor.” Inspire your team to push harder and run faster — and then empower them to get it done.

More on this initiative as it grows and evolves, which — no doubt — it will. For now, start thinking like a DJ. Think about how you can enable your analysts or marketers to tackle consumer journeys through creative, data-driven, journey-focused methods — methods that these marketers are empowered to control. Think about how you can “own the moment” and deliver greater relevance for your customers every single step of the way. And above all, think about how you can better connect with consumers, removing roadblocks and bolstering positive interactions to architect the best possible journeys. From there, you’re well on your way to DJ-hood.