February 4, 2020

Bold experimentation is the answer to poorly performing companies in the UK


Without executive buy-in for a digital experimentation programme, you'll never achieve the growth necessary to be a market leader

The fastest-growing companies in the U.K. are four times ahead of the slowest, according to GO Group’s latest briefing report.1

In the U.K., the gap between the fastest and slowest growing companies was wider than in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Germany.2 How did we get here?

On the surface, it’s hard to say.

Overall, U.K. companies leveraging experimentation showed decent scores. But a closer look reveals that fast-growth companies have a much higher level of executive buy-in for their experimentation programme than slow-growth ones.

According to the report, there is a massive 47 percent difference in the level of executive buy-in between fast and slow-growth companies.

companies who are experimenting at a high level will continue to make exponential leaps in performance and [the] gap will widen.

Leaders at fast-growth companies are leveraging digital experimentation to find growth catalysts faster than the market. More buy-in empowers their teams to run bolder tests.

These leaders know that if they are only testing small impact elements, they won’t achieve the growth to separate from the pack. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos explains, “outsized returns often come from betting against conventional wisdom…this long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.” 3

Chart illustrating experimentation program performance in the UK
There are four success pillars that comprise an experimentation program. Fast and slow-growth companies in the U.K. displayed the largest differences in all pillars, especially, executive buy-in.

Four pillars underpin a healthy culture of digital experimentation, according to GO. 

  1. Business goal: to orient the programme
  2. Customer centricity: maintains priority 
  3. Culture of trust: empowers risk-taking and innovation
  4. Executive buy-in: champions change

I predict that companies who are experimenting at a high level will continue to make exponential leaps in performance and this gap will widen. Meanwhile, companies who are only paying lip-service to experimentation won’t make the same progress.

Put another way: just because you’re doing experimentation doesn’t mean you’re doing it well.

Two techniques to boost executive buy-in and be bolder with experimentation

Without executive buy-in, companies develop experimentation programmes that spend too much time focused on insignificant tests. This lack of business impact perpetuates the view that experimentation is only for finessing pages, instead of discovering powerful new customer and market insights

Buy-in can only be gained when executives understand that experimentation allows you to validate bold ideas in a low-risk way and deliver significant results.

…just because you’re doing experimentation doesn’t mean you’re doing it well.

#1 Push – start with smaller tactical experiments, then use the insight to inform commercial decisions.

This is the approach we took with one e-commerce retailer.

User research revealed how important delivery was to their customers. Not just delivery cost, but also delivery speed and even the packaging used. In fact, almost every experiment we ran on the “delivery” lever was successful.

So we worked with the business to take this further – essentially saying, “If delivery is this important to customers, how can we make it even better?” This led to a painted door experiment offering same-day delivery, which was so successful that it was rolled out soon after.

#2 Pull – run experiments to answer questions that the executive team cares about.

With this approach, we start by finding out what the executive team is focused on. What are the choices they’re making? What are they investing in? What are they uncertain about?

Then we build our experimentation programme around this. So rather than trying to get attention for our latest button colour test, we can instead show how experimentation can guide their commercial choices.

It works. One of our clients wanted to launch a product. We’ll call it product A. But they were also interested in products B and C (even though A was their favourite). We ran a painted door experiment, testing all three. We found not only was B the most popular product, but they could also charge more for it without affecting sales revenue. 

The fast and slowest-growth companies in the U.K. were 4x apart from each other, especially, when it came to the success pillar, executive buy-in. Companies with high levels of executive buy-in reported faster growth rates worldwide.

Grow by getting your executives on board with the power of experimentation.

The distance between the slowest and fastest-growth companies in the U.K. isn’t just a gap, it’s a gulf. This chasm will only widen as those companies with executive buy-in continue to seek out bold ideas to advance their commercial performance. 

If you’ve tried to establish bold testing in your company before but failed, consider the pull and push methods mentioned above. Start gaining the support you need to get the incredible results your experimentation programme deserves.

Stephen Pavlovich is the CEO of Conversion and a strategic partner at GO Group Digital. Reach out to him about building or growing your experimentation program in the U.K. Read the full GO Group briefing report to see how fast-growth companies are building healthy cultures of experimentation to accelerate innovation. This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. 

  1. GO Group Digital (2019) Fast vs. slow: How experimentation is driving growth worldwide 
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Jeff Bezos (April 11, 2019) Letter to shareholders

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About the GO Group

The world’s leading experimentation experts build global experimentation programs and solutions for the GO Group. Contact the Group to learn how its experience and international setup can build or revitalize your experimentation program. The GO Group operates at the intersection of consultancy and conversion, enabling its enterprise clients to unlock business growth and value through the power of experimentation.

Learn more about the GO Group at www.gogroupdigital.com

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