As Danielle McLoughlin approaches the end of her time on the Digital Lab, she reflects back on what has benefited her most throughout the whole process, whilst also looking ahead at how she might use what she’s learned to start her next experiment.
My journey through the Digital Lab has been fed back to our theatre’s Digital Working Group and it has encouraged new conversations between departments about how we might work better digitally and how we may be able to feed this into our organisation’s digital strategy.
One of the first conversations that came out of the meeting was between the Communications Manager and myself. We talked about how we haven’t changed the branding or design of our customer e-shots for over two years and that in this age of social and digital media, we need to create something standout that will cut through the digital noise.
We’re going to start by A/B testing various things from subject headings to personalisation, image content to number of words, and use Google Analytics to gather data and track goals. These goals may include things such as conversions and clicks, time spent on a particular page, bounce rates and customer journey etc. — the finer details and goals will be discussed at our next communications meeting. Eventually we hope to have a quality template to use for all email communications that will be unique, yet on brand, and drive more sales.
A second experiment that I am working on with the Press & Digital Officer is related to a specific show. The show is produced by Hull Truck Theatre and, as usual, is of fantastic quality but is quite different from our previously produced works. It’s in a different performance space, it’s a one woman show and it’s predominantly spoken word with a genre classification of contemporary drama/thriller.
Being quite different from other produced work we want to put out a selection of social media posts/advertisements, with varying content, and see which is interacted with the most. I’m aware after analysing website data that the bulk of our sales do not come from social media, they come from emails, so bearing this in mind our primary focus will be about interactions and engagement. Secondary to this we’ll look at conversions. We’ll use a Campaign URL Builder to clearly ‘label’ each social media post and evaluate this once the show ends. We hope this information will help to inform the way we advertise on social media and by continuing to do similar social media experiments we can start to build the ‘bigger picture’.
Reflecting on my time with The Digital Lab, I have learned a lot, but some of the key take away points for me are:
- Don’t rush into an experiment without spending a good amount of time on the planning stage. As I learned in my last experiment, one of the hypotheses I’d made (re: latecomers) was tenuous at best, and I hadn’t thought it through in full before going ahead. This doesn’t mean the experiment was wasted, I was measuring other things too, but it did mean that the data that had been gathered for this particular ‘theory’ was useless.
- Have a clear idea of what it is you want to know/find out, too many variables can muddy an experiment.
- Be prepared to come up against obstacles. It may mean you have to change the way you’re experimenting or, in my case, put an experiment on hold completely.
- Google Analytics, URL Campaign Builder and Google Tag Manager are your friends! My mentor, Tom, taught me a lot about what Google Analytics can do and what sort of valuable information can be gathered from it, and also how URL Campaign Tags can be effective in tracking data from different sources. It’s important once you know what data you want, that you know how to read it.
- Obstacles are not your friend! BUT they can be valuable lessons. During the Digital Lab I came up against quite a few of these, which hindered my progress with the experiments, and while this can be very frustrating they are all learning curves. They have flagged up several things that need ‘fixing’ before we can confidently proceed with future experiments and data collection.
Have a clear idea of what it is you want to know/find out, too many variables can muddy an experiment.
Overall the Digital Lab was an extremely rewarding experience. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about Google Analytics/Tag Manager and helping other departments look at how they might experiment, digitally, within areas of their own work contributing to the company’s digital goals.
Image courtesy of Hull Truck Theatre — Us Against Whatever. Photograph by Sam Taylor.