Test and Learn Culture: The Key to Data-Driven Optimization and Customer Satisfaction

The Good
10 min readMar 19, 2024

Discover the benefits of a ‘test and learn’ culture. Learn how experimentation drives innovation, reduces costly mistakes, and improves the digital experience.

In the age of digital experiences, ‘test and learn’ is at the heart of every successful optimization strategy. And it’s not just a tactic; it’s a mindset embraced by the most thriving digital ventures.

Success hinges on agility and a deep understanding of your customers. That’s why the ‘test and learn’ ideology is crucial–it puts experimentation and data-driven insights at the core of your business.

Your goal is the same as your customers’: to solve problems and fulfill needs. Users come to you looking for solutions, wanting to know if your product or service can improve their lives. To truly help them, you need a deep understanding of their pain points and desires. A culture of experimentation improves this understanding, helping you uncover what customers truly want and how to deliver solutions that exceed their expectations.

In this article, we’ll explore the undeniable benefits of creating a ‘test and learn’ culture in your organization, showcase real-world examples of its success, and equip you with a practical roadmap for implementing it within your organization.

What is test and learn culture?

‘Test and learn’ is a process in which all changes and investments are considered hypotheses to be tested. It is a strategic approach that involves constantly testing new ideas, analyzing the results, and leveraging those insights to optimize digital experiences. This ensures that you’re making informed decisions that resonate with your customers rather than relying on past experience or gut instincts.

‘Test and learn’ organizations that adopt this methodology invest their resources wisely and prioritize strategies with proven results. They understand that continuous iterations of ‘test and learn’ protocols empower their business to become smarter, fueling unexpected and powerful innovation.

Why is a culture of experimentation important in a digital optimization strategy?

The ‘test and learn’ culture is the driving force behind continuous improvement, and its impact on your business cannot be overstated. Unlike quick wins that can fade, a ‘test and learn’ culture fosters incremental improvements that compound into significant ROI gains. This approach delivers results that last and consistently drive your revenue upward.

Embracing a culture of experimentation empowers you to make informed decisions, build sustainable growth, outpace the competition, and unlock the full potential of your digital business.

Business leaders who build a culture of experimentation within their organizations will realize many benefits. A test and learn approach:

  • Provides freedom to fail. When failure is expected and accepted instead of condemned, your team will ultimately get to the right solution faster.
  • Lowers the opportunity cost and minimizes major investments in changes that don’t actually work. It’s better to make a series of small, tested changes over time to increase the effectiveness of a website rather than try and rebuild from scratch every two years to try and please the CEO.
  • Provides data-backed research that reduces internal debates by making it clear that decisions are settled based on data and not egos or pecking order.
  • Builds a culture that cultivates teamwork. It’s like working a puzzle together — everyone gets to pitch in, develop ideas, propose the next piece to see if it will fit, and celebrate when portions of the work come together.
  • Nurtures innovation and unorthodox thinking. When teams feel encouraged to try new approaches, it ignites creativity and often leads to unexpected, impactful solutions.
  • Accelerates time-to-market. By testing and refining concepts iteratively, businesses can confidently launch new products or services faster, optimizing them based on real-world feedback.
  • Enhances customer satisfaction. Understanding your customers deeply is key to exceeding their expectations. A ‘test and learn’ approach helps you tailor your offerings, boosting satisfaction and loyalty.

Building the Foundation: Essential Pillars of a Test and Learn Culture

A true culture of experimentation isn’t created overnight–it requires a strategic shift within the organization that is built on several foundational pillars:

  • Curiosity
    Spark a relentless desire to ask questions. Encourage employees to challenge assumptions, explore unconventional avenues, and explore new possibilities. Curiosity is the fuel that drives innovation.
  • Data
    Emphasize the importance of not only collecting data but also the skills to interpret and leverage it effectively. Distinguish between being merely data-informed, data-backed and truly data-driven. Decisions should be grounded in reliable analysis.
  • Accessibility
    Experimentation should not be confined to a select group or department. By providing tools, training, and a streamlined process, you empower every team member to contribute to optimization efforts. This democratization of testing creates engagement and uncovers insights from diverse perspectives within the organization.
  • Transparency
    Build trust by celebrating both wins and learnings. Be transparent about the outcomes of experiments, even those that don’t initially meet expectations. This creates a safe space for taking calculated risks and fosters a culture where continuous learning is valued over individual successes.
  • Budget
    Experimentation, and the potential for the valuable insights it brings, requires investment. By allocating a dedicated budget for testing initiatives, you signal the organization’s commitment to continuous improvement and data-driven decision-making.

How to develop test and learn culture in your organization

If you accept the idea that developing a ‘test and learn’ culture can help your organization make the most gains in the least amount of time, the question becomes one of how to establish test and learn as the foundation of your own digital experience optimization efforts.

These ideas can help you do that:

  • Get personal with your motivation to inspire each member of the team. The better your team performs, the better each member of the team looks, and the more opportunities the individual members of the team will enjoy. Not only that, but a high-performing team makes management look good too. Everyone involved in test and learn gains rewards. Yes, teamwork is important — but let’s face it: individual recognition is important too.
  • Highlight the broader benefits of ‘test and learn’ to give every stakeholder the big-picture view of where you want to go. Test and learn procedures provide deep insight into customer needs and behavior. ‘Test and learn’ will help you optimize customer experience, reduce customer support needs, and increase engagement metrics like acquisition, retention, revenue, and more.
  • Stress the need for ongoing experimentation to keep expectations set realistically. ‘Test and learn’ is not a silver bullet. It’s not the knockout punch, but more like a personal trainer for your site. Executed correctly, your digital optimization work is ultimately concerned with learning more about your customers. Test and learn culture means ongoing experiments. It’s important to remember that the insights come from both winning AND losing tests. Once your team gets the feel for ‘test and learn’, there will be just as much value gained from what used to be called “failed tests” as from experiments that turn out the way the team wanted.
  • Involve the team members in the entire process for deeper buy-in. The team can have an impact and application beyond just your digital experience. They can be included in the ideation process as well. Report insights often. Make the entire process an open window. Keep the team informed about results related to broader goals and explain what you’re doing next based on your learnings. Properly implemented, a ‘test and learn’ culture develops a sense of belonging and responsibility within the team. Everyone shares in the feedback, and everyone is invited to make suggestions and come up with new ideas.
  • Provide convincing evidence to show the validity of ‘test and learn’. Bookmark this article to cite the examples given below (Stuido M, Prep Expert, and Laird Superfood). Collect other stories of test and learn success — Netflix, AirBnB, and Google are prime examples. Use case studies to provide strong evidence-based support. Check the Results page on our website for real-life examples of how ‘test and learn’ can pay off big.
  • Count the costs ahead of time to prepare for the all-important presentations to stakeholders. Make sure you can defend the wisdom behind implementing a legitimate digital optimization effort based on a ‘test and learn’ strategy. If you’ll need to call in help from outside your company (and most organizations do), you can ask the optimization agency for help with your presentation. If you’re going with in-house help only, you’ll need to show the wisdom of that decision and establish your team’s ability to conduct the necessary work.

‘Test and learn’ cultures don’t develop overnight. Be prepared to dig in for the long haul. You’ll need to prove the value of test and learn by showing results — but those wins are most often preceded by “failures.”

Winning Examples of Test and Learn Culture

The proof of a ‘test and learn’ culture’s power lies in real success stories. Let’s dive into examples of companies that embrace experimentation and see remarkable results. These case studies demonstrate the tangible impact of a data-driven, test-focused mindset.

How Studio M encouraged ‘test and learn’ culture to keep innovation fresh

Studio M’s legacy of innovation spans decades.

From a small family-owned venture in the 1980s, they’ve grown into a thriving DTC and wholesale home and garden powerhouse. Their unwavering commitment to innovation fuels this success.

Even with substantial industry experience, Studio M resists the temptation to rely solely on assumptions about customer preferences. Thanks to Creative Team Director, Maura Godat’s, initiative, the company sought tangible, data-backed results to inform their strategies. At 10:30 AM, a bell chimes in the office. It’s that time of the day again — time to test, innovate, and experiment, and we were right there beside Studio M.

Partnering with The Good, they embarked on a rigorous testing journey, seeking evidence-based validation for each new website iteration. This collaborative approach, combining The Good’s data-driven expertise and Studio M’s deep industry knowledge, created a powerful synergy. Their culture of experimentation empowered them to challenge long-held beliefs and drive continuous, customer-focused innovation.

“Sometimes, our team thought something would be super impactful for shoppers, but it wasn’t. So it just goes to show that it’s always worth testing. It’s always worth experimenting.

Maura Godat, Creative Team Director, Studio M

Takeaway: Even with decades of experience, continuous testing and a data-driven approach are essential for staying innovative and attuned to evolving customer preferences.

Read the full case study here.

How Prep Expert leveraged customer feedback and knowledge to inspire ideas for optimization

Prep Expert, a leading online education company, boasts an impressive track record of helping students achieve their academic goals and secure significant scholarships. Founder and CEO, Shaan Patel, fueled by a deep belief in his product, constantly pushes the company to strive for improvement and better serve their students.

However, they were running into decision-making challenges, with website changes determined more by individual opinions rather than clear data. Recognizing the need for an objective approach, Prep Expert sought a digital optimization partner to guide them.

“Anytime someone has an idea or an opinion on how to make sure our website appeals to our target market, we can take that idea and test it. This shows us in a very objective way what user behavior would become based on those ideas.”

Shaan Patel, Founder and CEO, Prep Expert

He emphasizes the importance of how this has helped their team stay laser-focused on what is proven to move the needle.

The Good’s team of strategists began by delving into user research and testing. A website audit revealed pain points in the student and parent experience. This, combined with Prep Expert’s extensive customer insights, sparked a wealth of optimization ideas.

Shaan emphasizes the value of this collaborative approach: “by using The Good’s ideas and our internal ideas, we get the best of both worlds. We have over a decade of conversations with our target demographic, but The Good is also bringing and testing ideas that we may have never thought of because they’re coming in with fresh eyes.”

With research-informed ideas for improvement, The Good put together a succinct, prioritized roadmap of testing ideas and reviewed the plan with Prep Expert.

Takeaway: A collaborative approach, combining internal customer insights with external optimization expertise, fuels powerful results rooted in both deep knowledge and fresh perspectives.

Read the full case study here.

How Laird Superfood created a best-in-class ecommerce site with the ‘stay curious and test’ mindset

Laird Superfood delivers on its mission of providing convenient, high-quality, plant-based products. When Alisha joined the then-small team, the website’s limitations were clear, hindering any flexibility to test and optimize. She spearheaded a complete overhaul, creating a fresh foundation for experimentation.

Alisha’s approach emphasized three core principles:

  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Testing everything
  • Always listening to customers

To counter the pitfalls of ego-driven decisions, she instilled a “question everything” mentality, empowering her team to challenge assumptions and prioritize insights from real user behavior.

Determined to avoid reliance on gut feeling, every website element — from images and copy to seemingly minor details like shipping offers — became subject to rigorous testing. This incremental approach, combined with ambitious projects for greater personalization, delivered a superior customer experience and valuable data for continued optimization.

“When people follow their gut instincts, it can be successful to a point, but if you’re not testing it first, I think you’re going to be very surprised. So we’ve prioritized testing for everything that we do.”

Alisha Runckel, Vice President of Ecommerce and Growth, Laird Superfood

Alisha calls their partnership with The Good a “no-brainer,” and The Good feels the same way. Alisha and Angela’s culture of curiosity, objective thinking, and methodical experimentation make them powerful ecommerce experts.

And something we all agree on: the key to optimizing digital experiences is to “stay curious and test everything.”

Takeaway: A “question everything” mindset combined with methodical testing drives continuous improvement and a superior customer experience, even across large-scale personalization initiatives.

Read the full case study here.

Test and Learn Culture is the Path to Digital Success

Companies that thrive are those that embrace adaptability and customer understanding.

A ‘test and learn’ culture positions your business at the forefront of the digital paradigm shift. It’s a mindset that empowers you to replace guesswork with informed decisions, constantly innovate to exceed customer expectations, and drive sustainable growth.

By establishing a foundation built on curiosity, data fluency, accessibility, and transparency, you’ll create an environment where experimentation is celebrated and insights flow freely. Remember, the journey to an optimized digital experience is an ongoing one. Embracing ‘test and learn’ means continuous learning, fueled by both wins and setbacks.

Don’t hesitate to seek guidance along the way. If you’re ready to build a truly data-driven, customer-centric organization, contact The Good.

Originally published on thegood.com



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