Meet Rover: The chatbot that scaled CRO through automation

As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points, digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.

The post Meet Rover: The chatbot that scaled CRO through automation appeared first on Blog.

Continuous experimentation and testing increases conversions at high growth and data-driven organizations. Scaling a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program requires not only building a long-term testing roadmap but also building a culture of experimentation involving multiple teams and stakeholders across the company. As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points,  digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot  by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.

This blog post shall delve deeper into why and how we leveraged the power of VWO API and Slack to scale our CRO program and help in building a culture of experimentation.

The challenges of scaling CRO

For Oogst and HEMA, CRO involved  constant juggling of interests between its CRO specialists, analysts, clients, website developers and other relevant stakeholders. Each decision and action affects many people, which is why the process needs to go as smoothly as possible.

For example, whenever a test is activated or stopped, many  people need to be informed at the very moment it happens without leaving  anyone out. When you scale CRO program at your organization, informing everybody manually becomes a hassle, especially with new tests being turned on and off frequently. This process needed to be automated to bring efficiency and agility to the CRO initiatives.

The Birth of Rover

We discovered that the VWO REST API makes it easy to monitor tests for changes in status, and that we can use this information to make announcements easily. As a result of these discoveries, the idea for a chatbot was born. By linking the VWO API, Slack webhooks and a local database through Python, we were able to notify the right people about test status changes the moment they occurred. We named him Rover: he would be a dog/bot hybrid that barks at us when it needs our attention. Rover also sends notifications to relevant parties about when to check the preliminary results of a test. A huge burden was lifted from our shoulders, leaving us with more time to think about the next set of strategic experiments.

Growing the bot

As these simple adjustments to our progress proved to be quite helpful to us and HEMA, we began exploring the VWO API to see what else we could do. We came up with a number of areas where the bot could help us with:

Quality control

We run a high number of tests and it is of utmost importance to us and HEMA that everything goes according to plan at all times. We have set up quality control checks internally to limit the risks. There are processes we follow before publishing a test to make sure it’s safe to go live and we double check right after publication in case anything was missed.

For example, some of the things we check for on the VWO side include if the traffic has been set to 100%, if GTM integration has been enabled, and whether the campaign’s name follows our naming conventions. Luckily, the VWO API made it possible for us to automate the checking of settings like this, so that we can be more certain a test is ready to be published, while taking us much less effort.

Monitoring live A/B tests

After publishing any test, we monitor events in Google Analytics to make sure we didn’t miss anything and the test is, in fact, running correctly. Although it allows us to maintain the level of quality we desire, this process is also very time consuming, tedious and prone to human error, much like the announcements.

To deal with this, we added the Google Analytics API into the mix to get Rover to check for the amount of VWO events for a particular test and notify us about its findings. The absence of VWO events likely meant the test wasn’t running (correctly), which is something we always had to check manually before.

Conversational A/B test management

However, at this point, Rover would only transmit messages, he could not process received messages. If we wanted a user to intuitively tell Rover to check a test, we’d have to include an element of interactivity.

That’s why we hooked up our bot to artificial intelligence using IBM Watson, which allows it to naturally process language. With this integration in place, a user is able to ask “Rover, is VWO test 244 ready to go live?” and it will perform the checks. Then, the user can simply publish the test by saying “Rover, publish 244”.

Right now, Rover has truly become part of the team, both of Oogst and HEMA. His contribution to the speed and quality of our process is well recognized. We included even more functionalities such as the ability to pause the manual activation tags we built in Google Tag Manager to trigger VWO tests, thereby linking VWO and GTM together.

But we’re not finished yet!

Scoring points: Building a CRO culture through gamification

Although the power and effectiveness of CRO and A/B testing is well established, building support for it throughout the organization still remains a difficulty.

To combat this, we found yet another role for Rover: quizmaster!

First, we pull basic information about the test and its variants from VWO. We then use this data to extract more detailed information about the experiment from our project management board. This includes background information, hypotheses, descriptions of the control and variants as well as screenshots.

From this knowledge, we dynamically generate polls on Slack where users vote on the landing page variants they think will outperform the rest. These users, generally members of the client organization, then battle each other in a CRO tournament where it is determined who knows most about the website visitor.

The introduction of a gamification element has made CRO more exciting to those not generally involved in it, it has made our efforts more visible throughout the organization and also highlights the successes we have. Furthermore, it builds team spirit and generates more ideas for future testing. All because of our data-driven quizmaster: Rover!

To sum up:

Here’s a quick summary of the benefits we have already achieved:

·         Notify stakeholders of starting/stopping of tests;

·         Notify stakeholders to check preliminary results;

·         Check Google Analytics for presence of VWO events;

·         Perform quality control checks;

·         Pause Manual Activation tags in GTM;

·         Start/stop tests through chat;

·        Perform the role of quizmaster, allowing stakeholders to vote on which variant they expect to outperform the others.

More to come!

Future plans

We’re in touch with VWO to expand the abilities of the REST API even further to make Rover more powerful. This collaboration is a very exciting one to us. The API has already proven to be invaluable in our current operations which are now running more smoothly than ever before.

This bot is the collaborative effort of Gino Renardus, Martijn Heerema and Thom van Engelenburg (consultants at Oogst, a Merkle company) and Floor Hickmann and Raun Sips (UX at HEMA).

About Oogst

Oogst, A Merkle Company, is the leading digital marketing, analytics and optimization agency in the Netherlands. Based in Amsterdam, its team of over 70 experts provide leading brands with digital marketing services aimed at utilizing customer data in the best possible way to achieve the highest returns.

The company has partnered with VWO since 2012 to test and optimize some of  the most popular websites of the country for their clients. Their extensive knowledge of, and experience with the VWO platform has led to these operations continually growing in size. Moreover, this has also led to increased stakeholder involvement and more intensive test management. In order to better deal with this increased scope, the Oogst team was recently joined by a new member: a CRO Chatbot that operates through the VWO Application Programming Interface (API). This chatbot is able to assist in many of the activities surrounding the CRO process.
Do you want to meet Rover or get to know more? Get in touch with Oogst’s Data, Tech and Optimization team! Reach out via gino@oogstonline.nl.

About HEMA

Since 1926, HEMA has made the everyday life of its customers easier and more fun through products that positively stand out: due to their quality, design and price. HEMA offers over 30,000 of its own products and services, has over 750 stores in nine countries and 19,000 employees. As consumers move more towards online, HEMA recognizes the importance of developing a digital strategy as progressive as the brand is.


HEMA’s webshop is widely recognized to be one of the best of The Netherlands, with a top position in the Twinkle 100 and by frequently receiving awards such as Best Department Store Webshop. HEMA and Oogst collaborate on CRO to ensure its Dutch and international webshops remain among the best.


The post Meet Rover: The chatbot that scaled CRO through automation appeared first on Blog.

Time to Get Personal

As a destination marketer, one of your main challenges is turning your website visitors into destination visitors. Before a visitor comes to your destination they compare you their other options. During this research phase, you tailor your ads to match their interests, you utilize search engine marketing tools to make sure your advertising and social… Read More

The post Time to Get Personal appeared first on Bound.

As a destination marketer, one of your main challenges is turning your website visitors into destination visitors. Before a visitor comes to your destination they compare you their other options. During this research phase, you tailor your ads to match their interests, you utilize search engine marketing tools to make sure your advertising and social content is targeted to their search results, and you hope these visitors click through to your site to consume and engage with the top content you’ve created.

But what are the best practices in turning these online visitors into destination visitors?

Leading destination marketers from Explore Branson, Elkhart County, Indiana, and Visit Williamsburg believe website personalization is a cost effective way to turn their website visitors into destination visitors. In Time to Get Personal, these three destinations highlight some of the ways Bound’s personalization solution has helped them stand out amongst their peers and convert their online visitors into destination visitors. Some of their results include the following:

  • Explore Branson has seen a 560% increase in e-newsletter sign-ups by using a personalized pop-up targeted to different website audiences.
  • Elkhart County, Indiana used Bound’s A/B testing capabilities to increase travel guide conversions by 253%.
  • Visit Williamsburg used Bound to maximize the value of their paid media campaigns. ince targeting paid media visitors to the website with personalized landing pages, they have seen a 41% increase in time on site.

Read more in this report to learn how these destinations got these results and to see if now is the right time for you to explore personalization for your destination’s website.

Related Posts

The post Time to Get Personal appeared first on Bound.

A/B Testing with a Small Sample Size

The question “How to test if my website has a small number of users” comes up frequently when I chat to people about statistics in A/B testing, online and offline alike. There are different opinions on the topic ranging from altering the si…

The question “How to test if my website has a small number of users” comes up frequently when I chat to people about statistics in A/B testing, online and offline alike. There are different opinions on the topic ranging from altering the significance threshold, statistical power or the minimum effect of interest all the way […] Read More...

Free Guide: How to Strategize & Execute Profitable Personalization Campaigns

When I speak with our clients, it often strikes me how many of them feel overwhelmed by the very idea of personalization. Our imagination, often fueled by the marketing teams of various software companies, creates a perfect world where personalization enables every interaction to be completely custom for every individual. In this dreamland, artificial intelligence […]

The post Free Guide: How to Strategize & Execute Profitable Personalization Campaigns appeared first on Brooks Bell.

When I speak with our clients, it often strikes me how many of them feel overwhelmed by the very idea of personalization.

Our imagination, often fueled by the marketing teams of various software companies, creates a perfect world where personalization enables every interaction to be completely custom for every individual. In this dreamland, artificial intelligence and machine learning solve all our problems. All you have to do is buy a new piece of software, turn it on, and…BOOM: 1:1 personalization.

As a data scientist, I’ll let you in on a little secret: that software only provides the technological capability for personalization. Even further, the algorithms found within these tools simply assign a probability to each potential experience that maximizes the desired outcome, given the data they have access to. Suffice to say, they’re not as intelligent as you are led to believe.

If you caught our first post in this series, you already know that we define personalization a bit more broadly, as any differentiated experience that is delivered to a user based on known data about that user. This means personalization exists on a spectrum: it can be one-to-many, one-to-few, or one-to-one.

And while there are many tools that enable you to do personalization from a technical standpoint, they don’t solve for one of the main sources of anxiety around personalization: strategy

Most personalization campaigns fail because of a lack of a strategy that defines who, where and how to personalize. So I’ve put together a free downloadable guide to help you do just that. This seven-page guide is packed full of guidelines, templates and best practices to strategize and launch a successful personalization campaign, including:

  • Major considerations and things to keep in mind when developing your personalization strategy.
  • More than 30 data-driven questions about your customers to identify campaign opportunities.
  • A template for organizing and planning your personalization campaigns.
  • Guidelines for determining whether to deliver your campaigns via rule-based targeting or algorithmic targeting.

Free Download: Plan & Launch Profitable Personalization Campaigns.

The post Free Guide: How to Strategize & Execute Profitable Personalization Campaigns appeared first on Brooks Bell.

Thank You + Brooks Bell’s Best of 2018

It’s January 3, and if you’re like us, you’re already heads down at your desk and neck deep in emails. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a minute to reflect on the previous year. In November of 2018, we quietly celebrated 15 years of being in business. When Brooks Bell was founded, experimentation was in […]

The post Thank You + Brooks Bell’s Best of 2018 appeared first on Brooks Bell.

It’s January 3, and if you’re like us, you’re already heads down at your desk and neck deep in emails. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a minute to reflect on the previous year.

In November of 2018, we quietly celebrated 15 years of being in business. When Brooks Bell was founded, experimentation was in its infancy. But despite all the changes we’ve experienced since then, one thing remains true: it is the opportunity to connect with so many interesting people that are solving big problems for their business that makes our work worthwhile. Thanks for walking with us.

A look back at some of our big moments from 2018

Winning like Winona

In January, our Founder & CEO, Brooks Bell, was recognized as one of 25 women who rocked digital marketing in 2017. Later in the year, she was also announced as a Southeastern Finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. 

We also celebrated 2017’s record-breaking growth, were recognized as Optimizely’s North American Partner of the Year, and we garnered our local business journal’s Best Places to Work award.

Getting Lit with Illuminate

Fun fact: We originally built Illuminate to help us better manage and iterate upon our clients’ tests. Over time, we got so much great feedback, that we decided to make it available to everyone this year.

Now, with a successful beta launch under our belt and even more new features being added to the software, we’re excited to see where this new endeavor takes us in 2019.

F is for Friends, Fun and…Fear?

In October, things got a little spooky around the office and it had everything to do with Scott, our Director of Sales, who decided to channel his inner Ellen Degeneres for the day (much to our colleagues’ horror). Watch the video if you dare.

Making Bacon for our Clients

Back in 2014, we set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to achieve $1 billion in projected revenue for our clients. By the end of 2017, we’d reached $500 million. And this past December, we hit $1 billion. (cue ::gong::)

But we’re not resting on our laurels. We’ve set some aggressive goals for 2019, with a focus on personalization, and we’re pumped to get to work.

Brooks Bell takes the Bay Area 

In September, we officially opened the doors to our San Fransisco office. This decision came after years of working with clients on the West Coast and our desire to work even more closely with them. And with the Bay Area’s rich history of innovation, we can’t think of a better place to help more companies push their boundaries through experimentation.

Still Clickin’ 

Last May, we hosted our annual Click Summit conference. We might be biased but this remains one of our favorite events as it’s filled with meaningful connections and seriously impactful takeaways. 2019 marks our 10th Click Summit, and we’ve got big plans. Request your invite today.

2018 on the blog

 


The post Thank You + Brooks Bell’s Best of 2018 appeared first on Brooks Bell.

New Features in Illuminate: Impact Analysis, Enhanced Filters, Updated Dashboard & More

Since we launched Illuminate back in May, our team has been working around the clock to develop even more features to help optimization teams better organize experiments, report performance and maximize impact. Today, we’re excited to share a few of these with you. What’s new in Illuminate? Show impact and determine priority Use our new Impact […]

The post New Features in Illuminate: Impact Analysis, Enhanced Filters, Updated Dashboard & More appeared first on Brooks Bell.

Since we launched Illuminate back in May, our team has been working around the clock to develop even more features to help optimization teams better organize experiments, report performance and maximize impact. Today, we’re excited to share a few of these with you.

What’s new in Illuminate?

Show impact and determine priority

Use our new Impact Analysis to show the overall impact of your tests by page type and identify where you should be focusing your testing efforts.

Sort and filter by what matters most

Filter your tests by 15 attributes including target audience, page type, start and end date, KPIs, revenue impact and more. Not seeing what you need? Add your own using our new custom tagging feature.

Keep sight of the bigger picture

Our new dashboard view enables you to view your program’s overall performance or view performance by a specific team or line of business.

+ a new tiled layout

If you love a good masonry layout (á la Pinterest), then you’re going to love our updated experiment view. Easily switch between a basic list of your experiments or a super slick-looking tiled layout.

Many of these features were developed in response to feedback from our beta users, bringing more of Brooks Bell’s advanced experimentation methodologies directly into the software.

“With Illuminate, you’re not just getting another test repository,” said Suzi Tripp, Senior Director of Innovative Solutions at Brooks Bell. “You’re getting 15 years of experimentation expertise and proven frameworks to help you do more, and do it better.”

Interested in learning more about illuminate? Learn more on our website or schedule a demo using the form below.

The post New Features in Illuminate: Impact Analysis, Enhanced Filters, Updated Dashboard & More appeared first on Brooks Bell.

Built to Wow: An Introduction to Launching Personalization At Your Company

The promise of personalization is enticing: a complete 1-to-1 experience for every customer, driven by every detail and data point about that person: who they are, their interests, needs and history. Their customer experience is completely optimized to deliver the right content at the right time, influencing brand engagement, purchase activity and “wow”-worthy customer experiences. […]

The post Built to Wow: An Introduction to Launching Personalization At Your Company appeared first on Brooks Bell.

The promise of personalization is enticing: a complete 1-to-1 experience for every customer, driven by every detail and data point about that person: who they are, their interests, needs and history. Their customer experience is completely optimized to deliver the right content at the right time, influencing brand engagement, purchase activity and “wow”-worthy customer experiences.

For years, this vision has been a pipedream among marketers, product managers and customer experience professionals. Many clients come to us wanting to “do personalization” but face significant challenges in doing so.

Part of this is due to the fact that “personalization” is so ill-defined.

At Brooks Bell, we define personalization as any experience that is delivered to a user based on known data about that person. By that definition, personalization exists on a spectrum: it can be one-to-few, one-to-many, or one-to-one. In the digital environment, product recommendations, customized search results and even segmented experiences are all considered examples of personalization.

But while many companies are already implementing these experiences, there’s still an overwhelming sense that many brands have yet to arrive in terms of personalization.


Got a bunch of burning questions about personalization? Submit them using the form below.

We’ll use this information to make sure we cover these topics in our upcoming posts.


A 2018 study of 300 marketers by Evergage and Researchscape International found that 98% of respondents believe personalization helps advance customer relationships, but only 12% were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with the level of personalization in their marketing efforts.

This is because (not unlike experimentation) personalization is a business strategy that should evolve in order to deliver long-term value. And while it’s true that many brands already have the ability to do personalization, they’ve also found that elevating and scaling a personalization program is difficult, costly and, frankly, can feel pretty darn impossible.

So, how to do this? In addition to the fundamentals for a standard optimization program, there are three critical working components that need to be established for personalization:

  • Technology: you need top-notch tools to centralize user profiles and deliver personalized experiences;
  • Data: personalization requires a clean, unified view of relevant customer attributes, and
  • Strategy: you need research and planning to purposefully and effectively launch, scale and benefit from personalization.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to break down personalization further by each of these components. We’ll outline the best practices, advice, strategies and tips to go from scrappy to smart when it comes to introducing and scaling personalization at your organization.

Struggling to execute a scalable personalization strategy? We can help. Contact us to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

The post Built to Wow: An Introduction to Launching Personalization At Your Company appeared first on Brooks Bell.

Online glossary of A/B testing terms and abbreviations

We are happy to present a brand new addition to our website: a comprehensive A/B testing glossary containing terms and abbreviations used testing as part of conversion rate optimization (CRO).  Definitions start from very basic things such as “A/…

We are happy to present a brand new addition to our website: a comprehensive A/B testing glossary containing terms and abbreviations used testing as part of conversion rate optimization (CRO).  Definitions start from very basic things such as “A/B test“, “mean“, “conversion rate” and “revenue per user“, go through “hypothesis“, “null hypothesis“, “standard deviation“, “p-value” […] Read More...

Video Series: Conquer Your Biggest Testing Challenges

Here at Brooks Bell, we work with clients that are at varying stages of maturity when it comes to experimentation. Despite the differences in these partnerships, you might be surprised to learn that regardless of whether we’re working with a new or established testing program, they all face common enemies: pressure to deliver results; inefficient […]

The post Video Series: Conquer Your Biggest Testing Challenges appeared first on Brooks Bell.

Here at Brooks Bell, we work with clients that are at varying stages of maturity when it comes to experimentation. Despite the differences in these partnerships, you might be surprised to learn that regardless of whether we’re working with a new or established testing program, they all face common enemies: pressure to deliver results; inefficient processes; a lack of understanding and support for testing; and difficulty iterating on and applying learnings from test results.

In this four-part video series, you’ll hear from Suzi Tripp, our Sr. Director of Innovative Solutions, Jonathan Hildebrand, Sr. Director of Design & UX, and Claire Schmitt, VP of Strategic Consulting and Solutions at Brooks Bell. They’ll discuss tips and tricks for addressing these challenges. You’ll also get insight into best practices for organizing your testing program, developing smarter tests, showcasing your results and obtaining insights about your customers.

Check out the first video below, or watch the full series by filling out the form at the bottom of this post.

Part 1: Storing and Learning from Past Tests

Fill out the form below to view the other three videos, covering:

  • Collaborative Ideation / Strategizing Better Tests
  • Communicating Testing Insights Up The Ladder
  • Retaining and Growing Testing Budget

The post Video Series: Conquer Your Biggest Testing Challenges appeared first on Brooks Bell.

The A/B Testing Guide to Surviving on a Deserted Island

The secluded and isolated deserted island setting has been used as the stage for many hypothetical explanations in economics and philosophy with the scarcity of things that can be developed as resources being a central feature. Scarcity and the need to…

The secluded and isolated deserted island setting has been used as the stage for many hypothetical explanations in economics and philosophy with the scarcity of things that can be developed as resources being a central feature. Scarcity and the need to keep risk low while aiming to improve one’s situation is what make it a […] Read More...