Analytics Professional Development

CRO: Everything you need in 10 minutes

OK, I got a lot of feedback on last week’s blog post about the Conversion Rate Optimisation that we’ve been doing at World Vision.  So I wanted to give another take on that and maybe cover off some of the questions you might have about how to get your website performing waaaaay better.


The Breakfast Club: How strategy is like Weetabix

The phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is such a common expression nowadays it’s almost an annoying cliché, but in Digital Transformation it’s more relevant than ever.

When you join a new organisation there’s a lot to learn: policies to get familiar with, who’s who, ways of working and what’s expected of you. These are rarely learned through sitting down and wading through documents and reading page after page of corporate speak, it’s learned by engaging with the people around you and learning from them.

Office culture is incredibly powerful, it’s the proverbial ether that permeates the office. Nothing speaks louder than your culture, it’s what welcomes people in, makes them feel at home, engages their spirit, guides them in their work and sets the tone for what’s expected with them. It lives within the hearts of the employees and reverberates in the way they work; culture is the very identity and DNA of an organisation. People stay for culture, it’s what bonds the workforce together into a cohesive unit. If the departments are the cogs of the machine, then culture is the grease that keeps things moving.

No clearer is that true than in Digital Transformation, even the best laid plans and strategies will come to no avail if you do not work with the workforce to integrate these new ways of working into the culture. This is no mean feat and should not simply be expected, it must be worked at, nurtured and cared for.

Culture is the glue that either keeps us doing things well or keeps us doing things poorly.

Professor Ethan Bernstein, Harvard Business School

What does a digital culture even look like?

Specifying precisely what a digital culture looks like is not a simple thing we can do but the clever people at Capgemini have put forward critical attributes that organisations should push for to transform the culture into a catalyst for Digital Transformation.

A digital culture can be defined by 7 factors:

  • Digital-First Mindset – Encourage staff to always look for a digital solution first when developing a new solution/process, rather than creating processes and solutions with a historical mindset working with the same tools they’ve always used.
  • Customer Centricity – Focus all your efforts to answer the question “How does what I do make the experience better for my customers?”, this technique is crucial to prioritising the work and truly adding value. Bear in mind that your “customer” is not always the same, for IT it might be staff, for HR it might be new recruits.
  • Collaborative working – Foster collaboration between colleagues to break down silos and encourage the fluid sharing of data. Bringing a diverse group of people into a project will always create a better, more rounded product.
  • Open culture – You must be open to working with external partners – build connections with third-party venders, start-ups or customers.
  • Data-based decision making – The answer is in the numbers – use data and analytics to guide your business decision and be sure to build data capture into all your products to create a cohesive cycle.
  • Agility and Flexibility – Your organisation needs to be able to adapt to changing demands and technologies and make decisions with speed and fluidity.
  • Innovation – Encourage behaviours that support risk taking, disruptive thinking, and the exploration of new ideas.

So, how do you go about implementing a digital culture?

It’s not easy and it’s going to take a while, that’s the first thing to accept. Culture does not change overnight, and you must adapt your strategies constantly. You may find that what worked one week does not work the next so you yourself must be flexible in your approaches.

Around your organisations you will have people who are Change Makers, these can be people who have been around since the dark ages or they can be newbies that simply personify the culture; at World Vision UK we say they bleed orange. It is these people that must be engaged with to mould the culture into one that’s conducive to Digital Transformation.

It takes a lot to change a culture, but these are my best recommendations:

  • Set a clear vision: know what the end state looks like and strive for this glorious end.
  • Lead by example: create a group of people that embody the digital culture and lead the rest of the workforce in best practices, with proof that the new ways of working, well… work!
  • The Change Makers: include your change makers in this group, and don’t underestimate their worth.
  • Pincer movement: culture change happens at the highest level and at the grass roots so it’s imperative you work top-down and bottom-up, the gulf between leadership plans and staff’s working practices must be bridged and the gap must be closed.
  • Invest in digital skills: this training challenge will be covered in more detail in another post but upskilling your staff is as vital as onboarding new talent.
  • KPIs: Design new digital KPIs that focus more on behaviours rather than successes and failures.

I’d encourage networking with the organisations around you, everyone is currently tackling these issues and there’s no shame in stealing initiatives that have worked elsewhere. However, knowing your organisation is critical, every organisation is different and the initiatives you choose to adopt must work for your organisation.

Having a strategy is important, it’s what sets your vision and guides your plans yet at the end of it all culture will win out. Strategy is the Weetabix of corporate life: incredibly good for you, and exceedingly popular… But also, rather dull and will be eaten for breakfast.

If you’d like to get in contact or leave feedback please feel free to use the comments section below or you can email me.


Something is happening to the homepage…

If you visited the World Vision homepage over the last few weeks, you may have noticed some pretty significant changes, that’s because we’re doing some Conversion Rate Optimisation.

Conversion Rate Optimisation or CRO is an essential element of digital marketing, in fact, it’s probably the most important tool at your disposal for improving the performance of your digital channels.  But as we found out when we ran this first test in a new programme, it’s not as simple as it looks.  Specifically, we took away three lessons from this test which we’d love to share with you.

1: The step is not the journey.

The journey from finding out about your organisation to being an avid supporter is not made in a single step.  If you try and see the impact of a change that you make as a part of that journey on the overall performance of your website, you’ll find it practically impossible.  After all, if you’re trying to improve the performance of a road, you don’t measure the speed of the cars across their whole journey because there would be too many other variables, you just look at the performance on that part of the journey.  We chose to look at the second stage in our digital engagement model, (which I’ll cover in another post) which covers the period between finding out that we exist, and engaging in some sort of support.  It’s the single most important part of the journey, and one that many charities pay scant attention to in their digital material – World Vision included.

2: Test your big assumptions.

CRO is often thought of as the mechanism for comparing two different wordings of text, or two different button colours in an A/B test.  And it is useful for that, but to start there would make the big assumption that “we’ve got the thing basically right and we’re looking for tweaks”. In the charity sector, even those sites adhering to what we call “best practice” only achieve about half the performance that’s commonly seen in the commercial sector, so we can’t make that assumption.  Instead, we must cast far and wide to see what direction we should take to improve.  We started by testing the fundamental assumption that most of the charity sector uses which is that, once you’ve told someone you’re a charity, it’s OK to ask them for money right away.  This works in the US, but in other markets it really doesn’t, which kind of explains why we get poor performance on our digital channels here in the UK compared to commercial marketers who are talking to the same consumers.  We wanted to try two “storytelling” variants which removed the up-front ask, and see whether they would improve engagement at that first stage.

3: Set up your experiment right.

Putting things on the website and seeing what happens to donations is not a testing strategy.  If you cast your mind back to GCSE science, you’ll remember that an experiment has a Hypothesis, a Method, Results and a Conclusion.  And you need those too, otherwise, the test won’t deliver for you.

Our hypothesis was that our new content-led approach would improve engagement by 10% without impacting significantly on conversion (the number of people joining us as supporters).  You’ll notice that we included a scale for the improvement, we are looking for BIG changes remember, and we also included a stop condition – if we say the test having a big negative impact, we’d stop it.

Our method was a randomised control trial.  Now that’s a whole topic on its own but suffice for now to say it’s the gold standard of testing.  You randomly assign subjects to the old homepage or the new one and see what changes.  Keeping the old homepage live throughout was really important because it meant that we can eliminate any external factors, we’re not comparing this week with last week, just page A with page B.  We used Google Optimise within the Google Analytics suite, but there are plenty of tools out there.

Homepage “Classic” control (Left), Child Variant (Centre), Aid Worker Variant (Right)

Then we had results – numbers – lots of them.  We were looking at the bounce rate (the number of people who arrived at the homepage and simply left) and trying to influence that, whilst also keeping an eye on the main donation and child sponsorship activity and making sure that wasn’t significantly worse on the tests.

Then we had a conclusion, and before I tell you what that conclusion is, it’s worth noting that the conclusion is the most important part of the process.  Looking back at some work that had been done here over the last year, I saw lots of “tests” being run, but no clear conclusions, and hence no value derived from any of that testing.  If you don’t have something you’ll change if your hypothesis is proven, then don’t do the test – you’re wasting your time.

So we knew which step of the journey we were looking at, we chose a big assumption to test, and we set up our experiment method correctly.  What did we find?

Two things.  First, the hypothesis was proven.  We did see a significant improvement in engagement in one of the test homepages (can you guess which one?) and we didn’t see a significant change in conversion.  Job done.  That means that we have some follow-through work to do to ensure that those improvements result in better overall performance and that we move on to the next step in the journey.  But before we get to that, it’s worth noting what else we learned.  The first was that this process is hard.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s advanced mathematics, and it’s really easy to get it wrong and end up with results which you don’t trust or which don’t tell you anything.  We encountered technical gremlins which caused us to pause the testing, and we had different people reading the results in different ways, in short, we learned as much about the methodology as we did about the test subject itself.

The good news is there are amazing tools out there on the web.  Whichever optimisation tool you use will have a ton of information, and will probably automate the process to a decent degree.  But check out online learning videos and courses, and of course, the old bookstore is good for this as well.

So two weeks in we’ve switched these new homepages off to run an appeal, but we’re now planning the next phase of the programme and I hope I’ve given you the enthusiasm, and some pointers, that will help you do the same.

And more about the engagement model another time.

Until then…

Digital Digital Transformation Professional Development

Stuart McSkimming, CIO of Shelter

On this week’s Digital Collective Podcast, Stuart McSkimming reflects on 20 years in the charity sector and picks out his highlights and current trends to watch:

  • How the move from on-premise to cloud systems is nothing like as important as the move from customisation to configuration.
  • How partners can really add value with managing fast-moving technology and integrations, but organisations themselves have to figure out what to do with the technology at the end of the day.
  • How the role of the CIO has changed from a technology role, focussed on efficiency, to a business leader who understands what the organisation needs to achieve and figures out how technology can enable that.
  • How clearing the decks from tactical issues can leave the space and opportunity to address strategic issues.
  • and how charities can use their unique advantages to recruit the very best digital candidates.

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Announcements Digital

“A Clear Way Forward” for charities on digital.

When the Charity Digital Code launched on 15th November 2018, charities welcomed the sector-wide standard showing what good digital looks like today.  Since then over 150 charities have used the Charity Digital Code Quick Assessment Tool to test their own digital capabilities and practices against those described in the sector, and have shared their data anonymously with the rest of the sector.

The verdict is that there’s a long way to go, but the way forward is clearly indicated by the code.  Zoe Amar, who chairs the Charity Digital Code, commented:

It’s helpful to have these early insights into where the charity sector is at in relation to The Charity Digital Code of Practice. The results show that there is some way to go with digital in the sector, which is a concern.  The best practice set out in the Code is designed to be ambitious in order to raise standards and we encourage charities to work towards it, as this will help them increase impact, improve sustainability and develop skills.

One challenge highlighted by the report is that whilst charities reported strong leadership from their boards around governance and setting the direction of the charity, that there were real challenges delivering on this within the charity – particularly because of a real shortage of significant skills – 75% of charities reporting that they had “very few digitally skilled people around”.  With digital skills being a strong driver of digital performance in other areas, the benchmark clearly points to this as the area of focus most needed by charities today.

One area of hope that the report highlights, however, is that analytics is an area that the charity sector is getting to grips with. Over 40% of charities indicated that they had significant tactical or strategic work going on in this area, and whilst this is a long way from fully meeting the standard, this does show charities focusing on understanding supporter behaviour, and in turn on the most effective ways to engage and respond.

“Digital has changed our culture and has changed our economy, our relationships and the way we live our lives” commented Jonathan May, CEO of Hubbub Fundraising, which sponsored the research, “It’s vital that charities use this benchmark as the measure of the size and urgency of the task ahead. The benchmark suggests that the sector as a whole is at risk of falling behind, and now is the time to act. Digital has now reached the point where a few strong digital people at the right place in the organisation working with the right partners on the right projects can have a transformative impact on both fundraising and service delivery.”

cdc benchmark png

Martin Francis Campbell, CIO of Christian humanitarian organisation World Vision UK, and chair of the Digital Collective which has run the data gathering and research highlights:

“The Charity Digital Code has been a tremendously useful standard against which charities have been able to measure ourselves.  It’s no surprise that we’re behind the curve on digital, and we know that we need to do more, but what’s so valuable about this report – and the code itself – is that, by focussing on the culture and practice of digital, rather than the technology, it shows us where we need to concentrate our effort in order to kickstart improvements overall.”

The results of the Charity Digital Code Benchmark Report have been published today in full to more than 150 charities who have shared their anonymised data for the research.  The full report is also available free of charge to any charity contributing data using the Quick Assessment tool here: