Top challenges prior to Optimizely

 

Low conversion rates

Despite having a loyal customer base and a unique value proposition, Road Scholar faced low conversion rates on its website, especially among new visitors who were not familiar with the brand or the concept of educational travel.

Manual and inefficient processes

Road Scholar relied on manual processes and third-party tools to create and update content on its website, which resulted in delays, errors, and inconsistencies. The organization also lacked the ability to run experiments and personalize its website based on user behavior and preferences.

Limited data and insights

Road Scholar had limited access to data and insights on its website performance and customer behavior, which made it difficult to measure the impact of its content and marketing efforts and optimize its digital strategy  

Using the best of Optimizely One to drive real value

Content Marketing Platform (CMP)

To streamline its content creation, management processes and content supply chain, Road Scholar implemented Optimizely CMP, which enabled them to plan, collaborate, and execute campaigns and content within a single integrated platform.

Content Management System (CMS)

To improve its website speed, functionality, and flexibility, Road Scholar migrated its website from its previous content management platform to Optimizely’s CMS, which offered faster load times, easier content updates, and more options to deliver content.

Web Experimentation

Road Scholar switched from their previous testing platform to Optimizely Web Experimentation, which enabled them to A/B test and optimize their website content and campaigns, run multivariate/multi-armed bandit tests, measure the impact of their changes on key metrics and deliver personalized experiences to their diverse and growing audience.

Optimizely Data Platform (ODP)

To gain more insights and visibility into its website performance and customer behavior, Road Scholar utilized Optimizely Data Platform, which provided them with real-time data and analytics on their experiments, campaigns, and content.

Recommendations

To personalize its website and offer relevant and engaging content to its customers, Road Scholar leveraged Optimizely Recommendations, which uses machine learning to provide tailored suggestions based on user behavior and preferences.

Experimentation Collaboration

The experimentation collaboration feature has played a pivotal role in Road Scholar’s testing process, facilitating effective communication and coordination among team members across different geographical locations and teams. This feature enabled Road Scholar to implement a streamlined workflow from test idea submissions to execution and reporting.

Key results since using Optimizely

Increased efficiency: Road Scholar has dramatically reduced its content creation and deployment time thanks to the user-friendly and streamlined capabilities of Optimizely CMP and CMS.

Improved website performance: Road Scholar improved its website page load speed by 38%, which has improved the user experience and reduced bounce rates 

Higher conversion rates and revenue: Road Scholar increased its conversion rates by 30% from March 2023 to March 2024 (including mobile) as a result of its experiments and personalization efforts using Optimizely Web Experimentation and Recommendations

Background

Founded in 1975, Road Scholar offers thousands of educational travel programs across the United States and in nearly 100 countries across the globe, covering topics such as history, culture, nature, music, art, and more. Road Scholar serves nearly 100,000 participants each year, who are mostly adults aged 55 and older.

Road Scholar encountered several critical challenges with their existing CMS platform. The outdated system significantly lacked the modern look and feel needed to attract and retain users, and making any changes to the website was a complex process that necessitated extensive developer involvement. This lack of an active CMS meant that content creators could not independently update content or create new pages, resulting in inefficiency and slowed responsiveness to evolving needs.

Additionally, the system lacked the flexibility and customizability required to grow with the organization. It was not scalable, posing a barrier to future development and adaptation. The burden of maintaining security updates and other necessary updates internally further strained Road Scholar's resources.

Moreover, Road Scholar's project management and content approval processes were cumbersome. They used separate systems for task tracking and approvals, which resulted in inefficiencies and redundant efforts. The marketing team had to manage editing and proofing through disparate PDFs, leading to a fragmented and time-consuming approval process.

In their direct marketing efforts, including extensive catalog and print marketing, Road Scholar heavily relied on testing to understand customer preferences. However, their existing web experimentation platform, fell short in providing the robustness needed to accelerate testing across various pages and support complex, simultaneous tests. This limitation hindered their ability to effectively leverage data-driven insights to optimize their marketing strategies.

Facing these multifaceted challenges, Road Scholar realized the need for a comprehensive and integrated solution that could streamline their content management, enhance workflow efficiency, and provide a robust platform for web experimentation. This need for an adaptable, scalable, and integrated digital experience platform led them to choose Optimizely.

Solution

Since adopting Optimizely's integrated suite of products, Road Scholar has experienced transformative improvements in their digital capabilities and operational efficiency. Leveraging the comprehensive tools provided by Optimizely, Road Scholar has created a more dynamic and engaging digital experience for its users.

From my perspective, Optimizely One has made things so much easier. For vendor management, I don't have to negotiate multiple contracts or find the best solution across different platforms. I don't have to struggle with custom coding to integrate various platforms. Also, having systems that can communicate seamlessly without having to learn another system really helps. I don't need to maintain separate passwords or have training for different platforms. My team can communicate with each other, whether it's the content team or the developer group, all in one place

Mark Fagiano
Senior e-Commerce Director

Content Marketing Platform

Optimizely's CMP has revolutionized Road Scholar's content creation and management processes. With around 75 users on CMP, including 20-25 core content creators and the rest involved in approvals and editing, the platform has significantly enhanced collaboration. The shared editing capabilities and visibility into the entire content creation process ensure everyone stays aligned. Customizable workflows allow for streamlined task management, reducing bottlenecks and enhancing productivity.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) integration allows Road Scholar to manage over 50,000 assets, including images and, soon, videos. The integration between CMP and DAM allows for seamless access and deployment of these assets, improving the speed and efficiency of content creation and publication. Extensive use of work requests and task management features in CMP has optimized workflows, particularly for web testing. This integration has improved the management and execution of experiments, leading to more efficient and effective testing processes.

Content Management System

Optimizely's CMS has provided Road Scholar with a robust, secure, and flexible platform for managing their digital content. The CMS's stability and security are critical for Road Scholar, especially as they continuously upgrade their .NET environment. The ability to move into more code-friendly environments has allowed for a complete rebuild of their website, resulting in faster load times and improved overall performance.

The fully supported and customizable nature of the CMS has enabled Road Scholar to set specific usage rules and manage content more efficiently. This customization ensures that the CMS meets their unique needs, providing a tailored solution that enhances their digital strategy. The seamless integration between CMP and CMS ensures a streamlined process from content creation to publication. This integration reduces the need for multiple third-party systems and provides a unified workflow, enhancing efficiency and reducing the total cost of ownership.

One of the things I'm really enjoying is the Optimizely One ecosystem. Having all of those components that speak to one another is a huge advantage for us. Integrating CMP with Optimizely Web Experimentation has been critical. Now, we have our workflows for testing in CMP, with a whole work request stream functioning as our testing backlog.

Mark Fagiano
Senior e-Commerce Director

Web Experimentation

Optimizely Web Experimentation has empowered Road Scholar to conduct sophisticated A/B and multivariate testing with greater efficiency and effectiveness. The ease of setting up tests and the streamlined workflow the integration with CMP provides has significantly reduced friction and accelerated the testing process, highlighted by the fact that the number of tests conducted monthly by Road Scholar has doubled, from approximately 5 to 10.

The web experimentation platform integrates seamlessly with CMP via the Experiment Collaboration feature, enabling a streamlined workflow from test idea submission to execution and reporting. This integration includes a prioritization process and visibility into the testing queue, ensuring that all experiments are managed efficiently. Optimizely’s experimentation platform provides more control at the code level for experiments and allows for the creation of custom metrics for reporting. This flexibility enables Road Scholar to tailor their testing and measurement strategies to meet specific goals and objectives.

Use Case 1 – Multi-armed bandit checkout flow test

Road Scholar has experienced significant benefits since implementing Optimizely's Web Experimentation product, particularly in managing complex tests within their checkout flow. One such example is the introduction of a feature allowing customers to save their credit card payment profile and opt into automatic payments. This was a substantial change requiring coordination across the organization, particularly with the development team, to ensure seamless integration and minimal disruption to the checkout process.

Given their older demographic, averaging 72 years old, Road Scholar was concerned about potential confusion and decreased conversion rates. By utilizing Optimizely's multi-arm bandit feature, they were able to roll out the test to a small subset of visitors initially, mitigating risks and allowing for careful monitoring. This level of sophistication and flexibility in experimentation would have been unattainable with their previous platform, highlighting the significant advantage Optimizely provides in executing complex tests and driving informed decision-making.

Road Scholar’s auto payment page

Road Scholar's Auto Payment Page

Optimizely Data Platform and Recommendations

The integration of ODP and Recommendations has significantly enhanced Road Scholar's personalization and marketing efforts. ODP integrates data from various sources, including phone orders and demographic overlays, providing a holistic view of each customer. This comprehensive data allows for highly targeted and personalized marketing efforts, enhancing user engagement and conversion rates.

The Recommendations engine promotes relevant programs based on browsing behavior, replacing their previous system with a more robust solution. This feature has increased flexibility and effectiveness, allowing for more tailored content recommendations. The integration between ODP, CMS, and Web Experimentation platforms enables the creation of unique, personalized experiences for users. This integration allows Road Scholar to deliver targeted content and recommendations based on a wide range of data points, significantly enhancing the user experience.

Knowing that the systems will advance together is a big advantage. For example, if something is developed for CMS, I know it will be integrated into CMP and Web Experimentation, ensuring everything moves forward in the same direction without one piece being left behind.

Mark Fagiano
Senior e-Commerce Director

Conclusion

The true power of Optimizely One lies in its ability to integrate multiple products into a single, cohesive platform. This interconnected suite ensures that CMP, CMS, Web Experimentation, ODP, and Recommendations work seamlessly together, providing a holistic solution that enhances every aspect of Road Scholar's digital presence.

In the next 12-18 months, Road Scholar aims to further enhance their experimentation capabilities with Optimizely by building out their ecosystem and fully utilizing the platform's feature set. They plan to focus on feature testing as the next step, aiming to migrate more order calls to the website and expand their service portal to reduce call center volume. This strategic approach aligns with their goal of maximizing the benefits of their partnership with Optimizely, leveraging its evolving features to optimize their operations and enhance customer experience.

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