Dopamine detective: The redemption of Aris Kinnas

Aris Kinnas recognized as an Experience Maker.

By Katie Martell

Posted on 09-17-2020

Aris Kinnas is in the business of doling out dopamine hits.

Not by any illicit means, mind you, but with simple and easy digital experiences for customers of Foxtel, a leading media brand in Australia.

“The difference between a good experience and a bad experience is where the customers coming to the website have done exactly what they wanted,” said Kinnas, Foxtel’s director of digital. “It’s a constant battle to make sure everything we’re building is simple and easy. … Neuroscience tells us there’s a dopamine hit that makes us really happy and excited that we actually got through an experience.”

Kinnas’ adept understanding of the power of a dopamine hit is just one reason the company won the 2020 Adobe Experience Maker Award for “The Advocate.” This category recognizes a team that overcame a significant challenge – in Foxtel’s case, competing against a growing list of streaming-video content providers – by embracing a customer-first approach to digital transformation using Adobe Experience Cloud technology. (Note: I was the emcee for the awards.)

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For Foxtel, that meant becoming world-class at delivering the kind of personalized, data-driven journeys that customers want.

“Our approach to digital matters to our customers because we’re matching the experience to what they expect,” Kinnas said.

Below, watch my in-depth conversation with Kinnas, where we dig into the keys to this win: detective-like experimentation, embracing failure, and selling to the C-suite.

Experiment like a detective

Confession: I wanted to be a detective when I was younger. There’s something massively rewarding (probably a lot of dopamine involved) about piecing together clues to form the right narrative.

It’s how Kinnas sees his team’s role in crafting the right kind of narrative and journey for customers within a “test-first” approach.

“You’re like a detective trying to weave together an understanding of what people are doing or not doing on a website, which isn’t very easy, especially because you can’t actually talk to them,” he said.

The Foxtel team uses Adobe Analytics to understand the performance of the website and Adobe Target to run experiments. In doing so, the company has seen a massive 52% improvement in conversion rates (compared with an industry average 10 percent to 15 percent) by following a reliable process:

  1. User test to understand the problem with the current experience.
  2. Understand the customer pain points.
  3. Build out prototypes.
  4. Test prototypes with users.
  5. Build out a better experience with Adobe Target and, according to Kinnas, “let it run wild in the real world.”

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Do what makes a difference

As Kinnas explained, it’s all about creating impact.

“You gotta do the big rocks, otherwise all you’re doing is keeping busy,” he said. “Lots of people could do lots of things. We choose to do things that make a difference.”

Like dogged detectives pursuing every clue, Foxtel’s effort has been remarkably persistent. Kinnas’ team has been focused for over two years on simplifying experiences across the whole website.

“Starting from acquisition [to] existing customers, you name it, we did it,” he said. “We’ve done over 300 experiments, and there’s quite a lot of learnings and quite a lot of failures as well.”

Learn from failure and show your success

Kinnas told me he is all about embracing failure.

“It’s OK to fail because it’s an opportunity to learn,” he explained. “Someone said to me, ‘The acronym for fail is First Attempt In Learning.’ So we use that to improve our processes … and everyone’s got that culture within them. Everyone’s trying to push the boundaries. Everyone’s trying to figure out what’s next and how to improve. Every micro improvement, over a period of time, ends up being a very large change to the organization.”

That’s absolutely key to an experimentation mindset: Failure is a way of helping us arrive at the truth. As buyers’ habits change, and as markets change, experiments give brands a clear path forward in the name of continual improvement.

“We’re data-driven, taking away any personal preferences,” Kinnas said. “We’re using the data based on what customers and users to the website are doing.”

The best part of this approach? Dopamine hits for everyone.

“I think the team gets the same dopamine hit when they have a winning experience, when things are working and being recognized,” Kinnas said. “It’s a win-win across the board, not only for our customers, but for the team members and the organization.”

Get the C-suite on board

I asked Kinnas about a common challenge in selling the results of this experiment-first approach internally.

“We had the tools, but weren’t using them effectively or efficiently. So we created a program of personalization and started with small wins. We took those small wins, shared them with the leadership team, and advocated to grow the program and make it bigger than what it was,” he said. “We now have a quarterly business review with executives and the CEO … we simplify and show the visuals so people can see exactly what was changed and really simply call out the impact. That’s what’s really important for the organization – how is this impacting the bottom line? We’ve been able to demonstrate that over and over.”

This delivered confidence in the program, as well as in Kinnas and his team. But Kinnas always remember the mantra required to push for innovation: “Sometimes you don’t ask for permission, you ask for forgiveness, and you go and run with it,” he said.

A redemption story

I remember well Kinnas’ reaction during the live award ceremony:

Aris Kinnas celebrating

I asked him what it was like to win after coming so close last year.

“It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling. It just shows you need to be persistent and consistent, and maybe it just might happen to you, too,” he said.

I agree – and can’t wait to see the 2021 award submissions. As if you needed another reason to submit a nomination, just imagine the dopamine hit you’ll get from a win.

Honoring the movers and shakers. Learn more about the Adobe Experience Maker Awards.

Topics: Leadership, Analytics, Digital Transformation, Experience Cloud, Marketing, APAC

Products: Analytics, Experience Cloud,