Most people know the George Santayana quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg

In his session, “Inside Out: The New Style of Website Optimization,” at the Agility Summit 2013, online marketing pioneer, bestselling author, and member of Monetate’s Strategic Advisory Board Bryan Eisenberg upped the ante on the famous philosopher, advising marketers to apply the insights from how website optimization has evolved to improve their future efforts.

When conversion rate optimization unofficially got its start about a decade ago, he said, trying to understand customers and improve their online experience centered on preferences. The goal was to slice and dice a web page according to the different customer interests companies identified, but the process to change the website was so cumbersome it took months for them to deploy their ideas.

When Sam Decker, co-founder and CEO of Mass Relevance (and a member of the Monetate board of directors) was at Dell in the late ’90s, that challenge led him to develop a method to help prioritize the huge number of opportunities for improving the company’s consumer website. By scoring these ideas against the time to implement them, their potential impact on corporate goals, and the resources needed to execute them, he had a better way to focus his team’s efforts for success.

From there, said Eisenberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos developed and leveraged emerging technologies to ramp up the speed on website optimization. Focusing on customer experience, the digital leader honed its capabilities around continuous improvement and corporate agility to dominate the ecommerce arena.

“Most companies don’t have this corporate metabolism,” said Eisenberg, especially as they stare down the looming opportunity and challenge that big data poses.

Pointing to Scott Cook—the Intuit co-founder and chairman, who told a crowd at this year’s SXSW conference that corporate leaders must “remove the speed bumps” that block their organizations’ attempts at innovation—Eisenberg noted the three major speed bumps companies face in knowing their customers and taking action:

1. Technological limitations that are imagined and real

2. Legal limitations that are imagined and real

3. Organizational culture

If companies can break down the organizational, data, and cultural silos that stand in the way of gaining a 360-degree view of their customers and acting on the insight to drive more meaningful interactions, he said, they will find themselves both keeping up with customers and speeding past their competition.