Does Your Marketing Team Have a Sandbox?

The most successful online commerce businesses are those that can evolve their marketing and monetization systems quickly enough to make the most of every marketing channel and user click. For most businesses, however, keeping up with the pace of innovation in marketing and monetization can be daunting.

Change is expensive, risky, time consuming, resource intensive, and cumbersome. In fact, the very marketing automation and commerce technologies that businesses deploy in order to keep up often end up locking them in, making it difficult for them to quickly respond to new opportunities. I’m talking about ad programs, retargeting partners, social ecosystems, mobile—not to mention making better use of user data to optimize campaigns, landing pages, content, and personalization.

Think lean

To stay nimble, many business leaders are drawing inspiration from the Lean Startup movement. It offers a disciplined approach to rapid and continuous build-test-learn iterations in order to discover what will work best for customers and generate incremental value with minimal investment along the way.

Companies can apply these lean principles to grow their business, foster a more agile company culture, and get results.

Techniques include:

  • Continuously running test campaigns on all marketing channels to experiment with new programs, features, strategies, and settings.
  • Continuously testing alternate landing pages and targeting algorithms for different channels, devices, and keywords.
  • Continuously comparing solutions and results from different service providers, advertising platforms, and data partners.
  • Going out with a minimal viable product (MVP) in each case to get quick feedback rather than waiting to deploy a perfected solution. For example, when trying out new landing pages, quickly experiment first with several simple alternatives for testing hypotheses before investing more in development.

Most e-commerce businesses today implement some of these techniques to a certain degree—but rarely to the extent they’d like because of obstacles to change. To move quickly and run lean what commerce site operators and marketers need is a cheap, easy, and low-risk way of experimenting without disrupting their current business.

Enter the sandbox

With that in mind, what if you had a copy of your commerce site that you could play around with, tweak, and test on users without touching your main site and without requiring a lengthy development process? What if you could instantly try out that new marketing channel, retargeting partner, or SEM program without disrupting your current campaigns?

A sandbox is a place where you have the power and control to quickly iterate and gather feedback that you can use to grow your established business. A familiar concept to software developers, it’s an isolated environment that you can update quickly without worrying about breaking anything. Way beyond a mere test framework on top of your existing site, this is a completely separate space that might share content and functionality with your main site but which can be experimented with and run independently from your main site, with you and your marketing team in charge.

In practice, few commerce sites have serious sandboxes for their marketing and monetization teams. A complete sandbox is complex to manage and there’s been a lack of available technology solutions to make it easy. We see this as a big opportunity for innovation.

Among its advantages, this solution allows you to run a fully hosted, streamlined replica of a portion of your commerce site, such as the search landing pages, in parallel with your normal site, and to use this replica as a sandbox for growing revenue.

More importantly, adopting a sandbox will offset most of the challenges, risks, and costs associated with change—thus making change a much easier pill to swallow.

Erik Weiner is a senior vice president of Wize Commerce.

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