How to build a digital roadmap
A good product roadmap should aim to balance both business and customer priorities. The business priorities may focus on the capabilities of the current digital and marketing platforms, the roadmap should also focus on what steps are needed to attract new customers, and how to improve the conversion of those potential customers into valuable repeat business and referrals – in short, the customer experience.
The roadmap should define the overall customer experience beyond individual initiatives, such as improving landing pages or mobile performance, or treating SEO and social media as a standalone tactics. Above all, it should set out how to attract a first time visitor, and how to convert them into an active customer. How each tactic is contributing to this should also be clearly measurable.
How to categorise your ideas and wishlist
Coming up with new ideas and valuable improvements is usually not the problem. The problem is figuring out which initiatives to focus on and develop further.
The “lean” techniques and metrics used by high growth start-ups, provide a solid approach for companies to measure what is / isn't working and to prioritise improvements into a digital roadmap.
The “lean” approach categorises all marketing and functionality improvements under the following set of headings. These are simply logical groups that reflect the customer journey, from first time visitor to loyal advocate.
Acquisition groups improvements that will attract new potential customers. For example, this would include SEO, PPC, social media, blogger outreach, landing pages and the overall content strategy (assuming the goal is to create shareable content that creates interest in your offering)
Activation improvements are features that will convert visitors. For example, on an ecommerce website, this would mean the search and browse functionality (collection pages)and individual product page layouts.
Start by measuring on-site behaviour using Google Analytics and ideally capture heatmaps (using tools such as www.crazyegg.com) to understand where the critical conversion points are. Ensure you have a clear set of “goals” setup in Google Analytics – such as “Add to basket”, “Signup for newsletter”, “Complete the lead enquiry form”
It is then possible to use A/B testing (which can be provided via CMS platforms such as Sitecore, or as an external service via tools such as Optimizely)to test a simple set of hypotheses such as variants on page layout or work with a development partner to setup optimised page layouts.
Retention improvements are features that will bring users back to the site. This includes everything from newsletters, to drip-feed email courses, to social media, through to Google remarketing tags.
Revenue improvements are features which will improve the overall bottom line. For an ecommerce site, this will mean improving the checkout flow, or making it easy for users to browse on a mobile, and return later to transact on a tablet or desktop. It could also mean setting up a basket abandonment process, with an automated email enticing users back with a relevant offer or discount. For corporate and marketing websites, this could be measured by volume and quality of leads flowing into in CRM.
This groups the features which will encourage users to refer new users. This could be as simple as A/B testing the placement and design of social buttons to encourage more sharing. For an ecommerce site this could be a follow up email offering a discount coupon as a reward for referring other users
Figuring out what to build
Each potential improvement should be captured in a product backlog (this can be a simple online spreadsheet) and categorised against these ‘AARRR’ groupings. In addition, a score should be assigned in terms of business value (priority – 1, 2, 3 etc.) and a rough estimate in terms of technical effort (1d, 1w, 2w etc.)
This approach helps to shape the discussion about what improvements to focus on and in what order. For a new product, or a company entering new markets the focus should be on Acquisition and Activation). For a product or ecommerce company with solid inbound traffic but poor conversion rates, the priority would be the features that will improve Revenue – such as optimising the checkout flow and setting up a basket abandonment process.
How to measure
A useful technique is to assign “points” to each possible user interaction on the site. For example, is it more valuable for a user to signup to a newsletter (3 points?) or to click the share button (1 point?). For companies with a long and complex sales funnel, the newsletter means you are able to drip-feed new and interesting content to the user, keeping your services at the top of their mind and encouraging them to revisit. Conversely, for companies want to quickly build an audience, the share button might be more valuable.
Each potential improvement should be accompanied by a hypotheses and a way to measure. This could be as simple as “if we keep the newsletter signup visible as the user scrolls down the page, our signups per visit will increase”.
Before each improvement is implemented, you should define how you will measure the results. This can be done by tracking the goal conversions in Google Analytics and looking at the figures before and after improvements.
It many cases, it is also possible to keep the original running as a control – so that 50% of the visitors see the original version and 50% of visitors see the new version. This is important if you are making several improvements at once, so that you can isolate the effect of each individual improvement.
Coming up with new ideas and valuable improvements is usually not the problem. The problem is figuring out which initiatives to focus on and develop further.All elements of the digital strategy need to work in unison. If you are unsure where to focus in terms of effort, businesses should focus on Acquisition and Activation metrics – as these are improved, the other metrics will improve by implication.
While “lean startup” categorisation will help focus on the most valuable improvements, it is still imperative to have an overarching “future vision” – the next big destination for the business.