In a lot of ways, optimization follows the crawl, walk, run process: Austin Kueffner, Outliant
This interview is part of Kameleoon's Expert FAQs series, where we interview leading experts in data-driven CX optimization and experimentation. Austin Kueffner is a partner at startup consultancy Outliant and co-founder of the healthcare brand Winona.
Hi Austin, thank you for your time. Could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you do?
Sure, I am the co-founder of two technology businesses based out of Austin, Texas.
The first one is called Outliant. It is a technology consulting business that helps companies build products. The second one is called Winona. Winona is an anti-aging and wellness telehealth company that launched in April. In both businesses, my expertise is focused around how to use data for optimization and analytics. Normally, I come up with cool ways to use data at Winona and then consult other companies on how to use data in these cool ways at Outliant.
Based on your experience, what stops teams and companies from scaling up their optimization programs? Even if they’ve tried before, and failed, what’s a tip you think would help them scale up?
Based on what I have seen, the reason that companies stop scaling their optimization is because they haven't seen an ROI that rewarded their efforts.
When talking to these companies, I generally try to get them to understand that CRO is an ongoing process and that they are likely not seeing an ROI if their experiments are too conservative. True CRO isn’t going to come from A/B testing two slightly different shades of blue for the call-to-action button.
True CRO is going to come from testing out wildly different variations seeing which one increases conversion and then refining from there. As a company tests things, they should be afraid of testing weird ideas and they shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes.
How would you help someone feel less overwhelmed about data when it comes to optimization?
What causes data to feel overwhelming can generally be attributed to one of these three V’s:
- Volume: Too much data.
- Velocity: Data is coming at them too quickly.
- Variety: There are too many types of data.
When working with optimization teams, I generally encourage them to start small. Find a way to generate a single optimization win by beating a benchmark. Once an organization has a better understanding of how to increase conversion using optimization, then I encourage them to expand the complexity of their optimizations and data ingestions.
In a lot of ways, optimization follows the crawl, walk, run process. If an organization tries to optimize at a runner's pace while only knowing how to optimize at a crawling pace, the organization will feel overwhelmed.
Privacy and compliance
Some industries—e.g. Healthcare and finance— blame regulatory concerns as the reason why they can’t optimize as aggressively as they would like. Is this anxiety merited?
Regulated industries do have to be careful about how their customer data is collected and shared. However, their anxiety about using data to optimize their customer experience is not entirely merited. These companies just need to take extra precaution about which platform they share their data with and how they share it.
If an organization is in a regulated industry, I would recommend for them to only work with platforms that enforce strict security measures with their customer’s data like Kameleoon. Kameleoon will even sign a Business Associates Agreement if needed.
Organizations who prefer to not share any personal data can still optimize aggressively, they will just need to take extra steps to anonymize their data. For instance, a company can run an A/B test on their homepage without sending any personal data into an optimization platform.
Have you ever encountered a situation where you wanted to use PII but couldn’t because of regulatory restrictions or some security risk? How did you solve it?We run into this issue frequently at Winona. As a healthcare company, we try to avoid sending any unnecessary PHI/PII data to any platform. In most cases, we are still able to use the platform to its fullest extent without sending any PHI/PII.
To do this, you will need to identify users within the platforms as a custom Unique User ID (UUID) rather than by the user’s name, email, phone, etc. Instead of sending the user “Austin Kueffner” into the platform like Kameleoon, you would send in user “38ufde” into the platform. In your internal secured database you would need to have a table that maps user “38ufde” to “Austin Kueffner.” This approach allows you to send in user data into a platform like Kameleoon without sending any of their PHI/PII.
Pay it forward
What is one book not directly related to optimization that you would recommend to CROs?
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath would be the book that I recommend. The book does a great job of informing the user about what causes people to remember and pay attention to things. Understanding the psychology of people is extremely valuable when optimizing in a way that influences user behavior.
My favorite chapter discussed how creating an emotional feeling influences attention. People are wired to feel things. In a lot of ways, people will never remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Since reading this chapter, I now put a conscious effort to add emotion and feeling into my optimization variants. So far, this approach has paid off.
You’re at a conference (remember those?)—what’s your go-to networking strategy? Any icebreakers?This might sound silly, but my advice is to talk to people. When I first started to go to conferences, I would never talk to people. It prevented me from ever really building a network. Now, times are different, and I would consider myself to be an expert networker. The only thing that has really changed is my conscious effort to talk to people.
To break the ice when talking to strangers, I generally start off the conversation by asking their opinion about the networking event. People love sharing their opinions, so this single question usually leads to a variety of conversation topics.
Pay it forward? Who do you think deserves to be featured for their work in experimentation?
Ezra Firestone is hands down my favorite experimentation expert. I’ve probably seen the guy speak about 10 times and each time I go home with interesting experiments to try. Ezra Firestone runs the eCommerce brand BOOM! by Cindy Joseph.
Ezra specializes in eCommerce and digital marketing experimentation but I believe his principles are relevant to any business type.