How Optimizely Empowers Entrepreneurs With Endless Experimentation
Elisabeth Brier and Will Gradin

Due to the rapid rate in which startups both rise and fall, entrepreneurs no longer have the luxury of just “winging it.”

Every decision needs to be tactful and each choice must be thoroughly thought out and backed by tangible data.

That’s where Optimizely comes in.

Boasting the accolade of “The World’s Leading Experimentation Platform,” Optimizely works to empower everyone from marketers to developers to early stage founders to massive enterprise with information.

The company’s VP of Product Management, Will Gradin sat down with TechDay to discuss how Optimizely has grown to the level it has today and how experimentation is sine qua non in scaling your business.

As a leading experimentation platform, to what extent does your own continued research on experimenting and optimizing the user experience enhance the Optimizely brand itself?

Experimentation is the heart of Optimizely. It’s what we practice and it’s what we sell. Our platform democratizes this age-old concept and makes experimentation accessible, useful, and impactful to marketing departments, engineers, and execs. Our goal is to deliver the power of experimentation to empower employees, surpass the expectations of customers, and better the bottom line.

On my team, I encourage experimentation by creating a culture where risk taking is part of our day to day. My team members know they should be proposing crazy ideas, because often crazy ideas lead to the best products and features. We shop around ideas internally before rolling them out to a small group of customers. As we gather feedback, we refine and repeat. By encouraging our team to ask “what if” questions, we’re able to stay agile and optimize every experience.

To budding entrepreneurs, how do you go about emphasizing the necessity and value of experimenting everything and everywhere?

Each and every one of us has been experimenting and optimizing our whole lives. It’s what allows us to learn, grow and ultimately evolve. By embracing experimentation, entrepreneurs stay ahead of their competition by making progress faster and smarter. Experimentation removes subjectivity, ambiguity and uncertainty from the decision-making process. It mitigates risk and helps executives make smarter decisions.

Take REVOLVE, as an example. The online-only retailer wanted to drive more mobile app downloads and conversions. The REVOLVE team ran a test to better understand what drives mobile app downloads and usage. They hypothesized that directing mobile web visitors to a splash page with aggressive promotion for REVOLVE’s mobile app would drive more app installs — and this hypothesis was confirmed. The variation with the aggressive splash page increased app downloads directly from the mobile site by an overwhelming 350 percent. With more users shopping from the mobile app, REVOLVE can provide more relevant, personalized experiences to their audience that will drive purchases and boost business impact.

How do you ensure the data collected from Optimizely is accessible and readable to perhaps not the most seasoned marketer or entrepreneur?

Not every company has the bandwidth and budget to experiment at the scale of Google or Facebook — but today’s technology makes experimentation accessible to everyone, even without 100 developers on hand. One of the key pillars of our company is that we make it easy for both marketers and developers to experiment.

How do you successfully convey the trustworthiness of Optimizely's findings and validity of the data?

The Internet and technology have made it easy to evaluate experiment results at any time and run tests with many goals and variations. We found that when these experiments were paired with classical statistics, the margin for error increased. When Optimizely discovered this, we created our Stats Engine to ensure that we delivered the most accurate and reliable data possible for our customers. Our tool combines sequential testing and false discovery rate controls to deliver results that are valid regardless of sample size and match the error rate we report to the error businesses care about. We found that our Stats Engine can reduce the chance of incorrectly declaring a winning or losing variation from 30 percent to 5 percent without sacrificing speed.

With Stats Engine, Optimizely is taking the industry one step further and has empowered anyone to analyze results with powerful statistics. We empower businesses to make data-driven decisions.

As the target audience for Optimizely ranges from marketers to developers to early stage founders to massive enterprises, which value propositions do you primarily focus on to appeal to all of these markets?

Experiment everywhere! Whether it be a large scale enterprise or an early stage startup, Optimizely’s platform equips businesses to be creative and take meaningful risks. Businesses using our platform are learning, fine tuning and staying ahead of their competition. By experimenting everywhere companies are making the most out of every customer interaction.

When we first started working with MVMT Watches in 2013, their co-founder Jake Kassan knew that testing would give him the ability to evolve and innovate faster than his competitors — key to the company’s success. And he was right, by embracing optimization MVMT has increased sales and tested new products that could make or break their business.

What would you say to an entrepreneur who has yet to see the value in compressive experimenting?

As we move into this new age of technology innovation, companies that are not experimenting are putting themselves at risk. Consumers are demanding a personalized experience, and companies must embrace experimentation. If companies want powerful results they must run meaningful, well thought out, and bold experiments.

What's next for Optimizely?

The explosion of connected devices has changed the way people interact with brands, and it has lead an increase of touch points and opportunity. Customers are now expecting and demanding brands to know their preferences and history — and in turn highly-personalized content. Optimizely will not only continue to serve those needs, but will anticipate ways to help executives, marketers and product teams continue to experiment.

Our Full Stack feature was inspired by a customer request. Our customers wanted to test end-to-end functionality and customer experience rather than just website content. As we worked on Optimizely X Full Stack, we quickly discovered that the solutions we were building can also be applied to mobile apps, IoT connected devices, OTT (over-the-top) devices, Amazon Echo, and even virtual reality devices. We’ll continue to introduce new features that empower people to make better business decisions and deliver better customer experiences.