Financial Institutions Need to Build Their Digital Dream Team

It's critical that banking providers squeeze maximum ROI from their online, web and mobile experience. If you could build the ultimate team to fine-tune your digital strategy, here's what it would look like.

The rapid maturation of digital optimization — content and experience testing or behavioral targeting — generates reliable and consistent improvements in the customer experiences financial institutions deliver. For banks and credit unions dedicated to improving their relationships with consumers, optimization programs can deliver substantial additive gains through an iterative process. Simple tests can yield tremendous results, improving customer satisfaction, driving online applications, and building people’s trust while they engage with your digital brand.

“75% of businesses are unable to find expertise suitable for optimizing even simple landing pages.”
— MarketingSherpa

In a Forrester survey, 21% of customer experience decision-makers say they have prioritized investment in testing and optimization programs. However, like most enterprise initiatives, an optimization program hinges on the sum of three things: people, processes and technologies. And people are a big part of the problem. According to MarketingSherpa, nearly 75% of businesses are unable to find suitable expertise for optimizing even simple landing pages. Similarly, Forrester recognizes in its survey that “user experience and data professionals are hardest to staff for.”

Three Ways to Build Your Team

You have three options. You can hire, train or outsource. Each option has implications for the speed, cost and the resulting quality of the team’s work. Depending on the resources you are able to dedicate to optimization from those already involved in your digital efforts and their level of expertise, one of the following options may be a better fit for your organization than another. Organizational goals for the optimization program will also dictate your team-building strategy to some degree.

For example, if your goal is to immediately commence a program consisting
of hundreds of tests and targets each quarter and you have limited dedicated resources, a team composed partially or completely of outside resources will likely lead to faster results.

Hiring for a Complete Enterprise Optimization Team

A complete, enterprise-level optimization team requires that you bring dedicated resources to bear from the very beginning. With each person focused on their individual piece of the optimization puzzle, you can be confident that the right skills are being applied to the right tasks. While you may not hire new resources for every role, this approach allows you to at least identify the range of expertise you need. Keep in mind that as you build your program and begin to serve multiple organizational departments — each with their own goals — you may need more than one person to support some of the following responsibilities. Whichever strategy you choose when building your team, it is important to ensure that the following roles are accounted for:

  • Optimization Project Lead
  • Project Manager
  • Optimization Specialist
  • Creative Specialist
  • Web Developer
  • Quality Assurance (QA)
  • Analyst

Optimization Project Lead

This person is the cornerstone of your entire program. This role requires experience with optimization programs and a firm grasp of the goals and priorities of your organization. Project leads are ultimately responsible for translating the organization’s business goals into test ideas. The lead is also focused on the roadmap for testing and targeting — how one test leads into another and what strategies are driving the roadmap for further tests and targets. The project lead must also be able to advocate for the methods and results from their optimization programs to ensure ongoing executive support and collaboration with other departments. Finally, be sure not to confuse the internal program sponsor, who may be part of Marketing, IT or customer experience departments, for the project lead. While a project lead may be suited to be the program sponsor, the opposite is not always true due to the need for more specialized skills.

Project Manager

Enterprise-scale optimization requires dedication to a rigorous testing methodology in order to see repeated and cumulative ROI. This means that a project manager is your best bet to ensure that multiple tests and targets are scheduled according to resource availability and to avoid test collisions where the same element is modified in multiple tests simultaneously. The project manager can also coordinate workflows for team members in order to keep each test on track. Between the project manager and project lead, these roles will be the key touch points for stakeholders around the organization to take advantage of the optimization program and enable their use of testing and targeting in their business units.

Optimization Specialist

The optimization specialist should be the team’s subject matter expert in optimization. This role requires significant depth of knowledge and expertise in test and target design, segmentation and statistics in order to understand not only which test won, but why. The optimization specialist needs to be able to understand the business goals, interpret past tests and understand the customer journey in order to develop further test and target hypotheses and design an appropriate testing method to match the hypothesis. Furthermore, this individual must be well versed in all the available data sources and a strong grasp of both demographic and behavioral segmentation. Another critical responsibility for this role includes building and refining the testing program. This means defining the end-to-end program that will be used to provide structure to the way tests are hypothesized, built, tested, analyzed and documented.

Creative Specialist

Creative specialists are a key role because they will ensure that all the changes and targeted experiences made throughout the optimization program do not diminish the overall visual experience or usability of your digital properties and apps. Creatives handle test strategy when the test revolves around a new design element or the key elements of a digital property. This could be anything from testing a new website that includes responsive design to providing a targeted set of content for campaign respondents. Other responsibilities may include developing copy and mockups for approval from stakeholders before they are sent to development. Therefore, this person should be intimately familiar with your brand and design language and be able to create compelling copy and content.

Web Developer and Quality Assurance (QA)

You may be tempted to borrow a developer part time from your website or app teams — resist the impulse! If possible, find dedicated resources to ensure that you don’t end up with a bottleneck in test and experience development. The developer will interpret the test plan and the creative specialist’s mockups to build the desired experiences using a combination of skills including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, mobile SDKs and more. Finally, don’t forget about QA. While you likely have QA resources that could be shared, be mindful that they don’t become a bottleneck in the optimization program as defined by the optimization designer and lead.


Once again, the temptation to borrow resources for this role is inevitable but the skills required for an optimization analyst are sometimes distinct from those of a business analyst. Look for those with statistical expertise and a keen understanding of the mathematical sciences that drive A/B/n, full factorial and fractional factorial multivariate testing, and the key principals of confidence, significance and correlation. Critically, analysts should be able to tell you not only which test performed better, but why, and what elements of other variations are worth testing further.

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Train and Supplement Your Team

“Online testing is complex and involves many participants and skills, and for most firms, process remains the missing ingredient.”
— Forrester Research

It is likely that you have some of the necessary roles or skills represented in your current organization, but their time is assuredly allocated elsewhere. Enterprise organizations pursuing an optimization program require dedicated resources to ensure that your optimization program stays on track and continues to grow in value.

When you begin building your team, first look internally for available resources with the appropriate skillsets. If your organization is new to optimization or owning the end-to-end program, be prepared to look outside your organization for new hires or training to satisfy roles that require extensive expertise. Alternatively, you may choose to augment your team with expert, outside resources provided by a creative agency or optimization solution provider. In this case, you may benefit from part-time, immediate access to more highly-skilled and experienced professionals than you are able to hire or train.

Don’t forget that there are variations of the roles and distribution of responsibilities as described above and it is important to make sure that the size and structure of your optimization team matches your optimization goals. For example, you may need a copywriter in addition to your creative specialist due to the volume of work in these two areas or if your current resource is not sufficiently experienced to satisfy both sets of responsibilities. Similarly, if you are looking to increase the cadence of tests and targets temporarily or immediately, you may consider augmenting your team with outside experts or resources temporarily to help you scale your program up and down as needed.

When looking for an optimization expert to offer training or to contribute directly as an outside team member, look specifically for a wide range of optimization experience. What types of testing and targeting have they done previously and at what scale? Do they have appropriate experience with multivariate testing and the statistics involved in deciphering test results? Has the person done similar tests with a comparable enterprise organization and if so, what were the results? A useful exercise to assess optimization expertise is to ask for suggestions for optimization strategies on your website or other digital property as well as the test design they would recommend and why.

Outsource for Experience and Speed

Outsourcing your optimization team completely or bringing in experts to augment your team’s existing skill-sets means finding optimization experts. The most common place to find experts will be at your creative agency and your optimization solution provider. These two resources have the added benefit of an existing relationship with your organization which frequently means that your optimization program can begin much sooner.

Creative agencies often have experience with a number of optimization tools and are particularly adept at creative experience and content design. However, expertise in optimization strategies, process development, and results analysis are not a given. If you look to your creative agency to provide your optimization team in part or in whole, pay special attention to these three areas which can be key drivers of an optimization program’s sophistication and ultimate success.

On the flip side, your optimization solution provider will have extensive experience with the use of their optimization tools and, in some cases, offer services to take the place of some or all of the roles described above. If you look to your solution provider, be sure to get a complete breakdown of responsibilities and roles that their organization can support to ensure complete coverage. Some optimization vendors offer few services and/or lack sufficient strategic expertise for your enterprise program while others choose to make it an integral component of their solution — even offering a fully managed service in certain cases. Supporting services may include just creative professionals or a complete team of experts in optimization strategy, test design, program development, project management and analysis.

If you choose to utilize the skills of your agency or solution provider, experience in optimization strategy, optimization program management and execution are the most important evaluation criteria. The underlying skills in statistics, project management, creative or web development may be similar to other applications but extensive experience in their use in optimization and a variety of use cases will lead to faster, more meaningful and better performing testing and targeting. Designing tests and hypothesis can blur the line between art and statistical science so learnings from past experiences in testing and how one test methodology may be more appropriate than another based on the test goals can have a huge impact on the degree of lift that is realized. For these reasons, you wouldn’t compromise when hiring talent with relevant experience so don’t compromise when vetting your outsourced team. Be sure to ask for client references to develop an understanding of the provider’s service coverage and quality.

Special Considerations for Financial Institutions

Compliance and governance in financial services require special considerations for project leads and team members. You should train your team on the specific policies within your organization that might affect the optimization program and work with the team to develop appropriate processes and documentation to ensure compliance and auditing of handoffs and approvals.

  • Considerations for the team include:
  • Secure pages that limit testing options
  • Legal approval on copy and creative slow testing
  • Cookies and tracking limitations can limit insights
  • Frequency of content changes imposed by IT or governance
  • Vendor access to staging environments
  • Data collection due to privacy concerns
  • Process documentation and change management audits

These considerations may vary across properties (banking vs. credit cards vs. loans), requiring even more coordination by either the Project Lead or the Project Manager.

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