Max Symposium 2016 – What I learned

On April 21st, I attended my second Symposium event hosted by the good people at Oracle Maxymiser. The day was packed with speakers from a vast range of companies, plenty of networking opportunities and great food. But what were the key points from this gathering that I took away with me? In this article, I share some of the things that I learned.

After a welcoming lunch menu, Tim Burge of Oracle Maxymiser opened the day by introducing Sylvia Jensen who works on the Oracle Marketing Cloud platform. Sylvia shared her very interesting perspective on the 3 X’s, digital body language and the importance of optimised cross-channel experiences.

Why marketing is driving the customer experience

Sylvia explained the importance of loyalty and advocacy in a brand or product. This offers the power to retain existing customers and keep them coming back to your business. It is also important to look out for the three X’s, these are: customer expectation, customer experience and customer expression.

  • Customer expectation defines the things that a customer is expecting to gain from your site.
  • Their experience is a measure of how easily they were able to attain it.
  • Their expression is the signal that a customer gives which can help you as a marketer gauge their experience – whether positive or negative.

It is important to manage these factors well, otherwise you may be giving your customers a bad experience and losing money because of it.

Sylvia gave an impactful example (probably my favourite example of the day) for the importance of context by illustrating a picture of a woman in three phases. The first phase was of a woman on a phone. The next image shows that same woman, still on her phone but now stood in a park. The final phase advanced on the previous two by adding a pram by the woman’s side. This example illustrated that by adding more and more contextual meta information about a single user, we are able to build three very different personas for this character. Our first persona may have been a business woman, who suddenly becomes someone who is in the park (perhaps not in a working environment) and then finally, we learn that they are a parent. All three characters may have very different feelings and motivations. It is important to know this information about your customers and target them appropriately and at the right time.

Finally, Sylvia explained the importance of cross-channel experiences versus multi-channel experiences. It is important, now more than ever for businesses to utilise as many marketing channels that are available to them as we operate on such a broad spectrum of media now. Sylvia’s main point was this – it is much more effective to carry the same conversation through all your marketing channels instead of holding them separately. This is an example of multi-channel marketing that can lead to a bad online experience: a customer buys a product from your website and then after leaving to go to another site they are re-targeted with ads for the product that they have just bought. This creates a bad experience because the customer no longer has a need for this product however they are still being persuaded to buy it. Cross channel experience fixes this by carrying one conversation across multiple channels.

Split testing practices and Optimisation Teams

The middle part of the day was divided into two tracks. Presentations by representatives from First Direct and BetVictor were held in one area while I chose to see the presentations from TalkTalk and YOTEL.

Stephanie Chan spoke for TalkTalk and gave her views on moving to a dedicated Optimisation Team. She first identified the structure of her current team which involves a manager with two investigators and two “techies” below that. She also described the day to day running of their team and noted the importance of working very closely with their marketing team and raising awareness of their work around the company. I liked her idea of creating a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) presence on the TalkTalk intranet system. This will allow people from around the business to engage with the work that goes on in CRO.

The presentation from YOTEL, given by Fergus Boyd, included an in-depth look at the business before moving onto some split tests that the company had completed. Perhaps one of the most interesting outcomes from YOTEL’s split tests came from a test on their booking calendar layout. They tested to see whether adding pricing to the dates on a booking calendar helped provide more bookings. Their example layup gave the room an immediate impression that the test would be a winner however the results proved otherwise. Could this be because the user was provided too much information or because users prefer to be kept in the dark? Was the price point too high for some users? This result proves once again that we can not always guess the outcome of a change in layout and it stresses the importance of testing our sites before we push changes.


Personalisation allows you to change the layout of a page depending on various factors specific to the user that lands on your page. You can serve different content to users based on their country, region, gender, interests (and pretty much anything else that can be attributed to you as a user) and can be integrated with the Maxymiser’s CRO software.

Matt Simmonds, Senior product director at Oracle Maxymiser gave a product demonstration of using personalisation within Oracle Maxymiser. Personalisation is a feature of split testing that is so important and tied into the message that was being echoed by different speakers throughout the day. Thinking back to Sylvia’s example of context and understanding your users, it illustrated a mechanism within the software that allows you to quickly and easily create personalised content dependant on the meta information that is provided by the user.

The lessons from Matt’s talk were valuable. He told the audience that the overall winner for one test may not be the winner for one segment of the audience within that test. For example, just because variant A proved to increase conversion by 5% for all users viewing this test, variant B may have offered a 15% increase in conversion to those users who come from country A. Oracle Maxymiser offers new campaign features that give great feedback for these type of results. They have used data mining to reveal some of these hidden gems that can be easily missed when we test our sites.


The day was concluded very nicely with the revered Matthew Curry of Lovehoney. His stage presence and encapsulating delivery held the audience as he told a story of how it is ok to be wrong. I couldn’t take many notes during Matt’s talk through fear of missing something truly spectacular, I did recount one of the many gems from his presentation. This was “defiance of best practice”. In an ever changing web, it is important to test, retest and test again. What is best practice now, may not be best practice in the not-too-distant future.

Overall, the event was a great success – one which I took many learnings from. I hope the things that I learned will help you in your ongoing endeavours to improve conversion rates and marketing efforts for your sites.

“I don’t want to live my life doing stuff I don’t like to do. I just want to spend my time on creating something true.” – Nikola Sarcevic