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sentient's ascend: a review
— Aneesha Rao
Since our goal is genuine transparency, we’re reviewing the technologies we partner with, highlighting areas of improvement, and also what features we believe make them truly distinct in today's market.
Traditional A/B Testing: Smoke and Mirrors
A/B testing is essentially the tool a marketer pulls out of their back pocket when they've run out of creative options to explore in regards to site performance. A/B testing is slow and cumbersome, and the findings are almost never worth the energy invested. Basically, A/B testing is a method to buy time.
Every rule has exceptions, though: perhaps you think your ‘add to cart’ CTA would perform better if it were larger or smaller. Perhaps that light green font your creative director insists on really could make a difference in conversion. You won’t know until you test one idea against another.
If A/B testing seems trivial to you, that’s because — with where we are tech — it is.
Multivariate Testing: Real Results
Sentient's Ascend solution addresses that issue of triviality, and from it has created one of the most complex and rewarding testing solutions on the market. Ascend uses an evolutionary model for their testing algorithm — yes, evolutionary as in human evolution. And if you've never researched how complex evolutionary algorithms are (and are interested), we suggest this Atlantic article on the wheat genome.
So, instead of the simple, NBA bracket-style of A/B testing, Ascend is unique because they create cycles of testing. Essentially (bear with us here), they grab the DOM tree and render your website’s front-end through their website; then they allow you to play with CSS selectors, modifying them, changing them, and doing all of the things you have always wanted to test, but never had the engineering bandwidth to. Then, each cycle mutates — that's the cool part.
With each short cycle, you glean which variant is the winner and which is the loser. Then the winning variants mutate alongside other winning variants, and you're essentially getting 6 months of A/B testing data in these micro-tests lasting between 1-2 weeks.
If you’re wondering how involved you are in this process, not much. You identify what you want to test: homepage variants, checkout page, anything involving the design of the website — big or small. Then Ascend launches a series of tests to ultimately find what works best. Think of it as a self-driving car: you punch in the destination and hang out till you get there.
Ascend uses an evolutionary model for their testing algorithm — yes, evolutionary as in human evolution.
The Sentient Team
The team is fantastic. I worked closely with Michael and Mark, who are cooler than cool. When I had feedback about the product (I wanted more granular reporting and a way to export CSVs without getting a daily column header — don’t know what I mean? That’s ok, that’s why I should work for you, wink), they immediately connected me with a Product Manager. This PM was so receptive to feedback, and also informed me of the way the product is set to improve.
I think Sentient is truly unique in the marketplace; I think the evolutionary algorithm is unparalleled in the marketplace, and I think you can get your entire team (and company) excited about complex concepts — concepts that are easy to distill in the form of conversion rate lifts.
We recommend this product to our clients when there's a good client-product fit. Most SaaS companies are pretty tight-lipped about price, but we're going to chat with Ascend to see if we can put pricing information here.
entreDonovan: website buildout
— Aneesha Rao
entreDonovan was in need of a modern website to highlight the unique capabilities that they offer their clients. The company offers custom garmenting through a really cool proprietary body-scanning technology: you walk into the scanning room, get scanned, and the technology outputs a fully rendered 3D image of your body. The tailors at entreDonovan then custom cut and sew clothing to fit you (and you alone).
We were so excited to get to work on entreDonovan's website, because there were so many ways we could tackle the problem. First, we asked the question "who are we talking to?" and did a few preliminary sketches on user personas — we decided that the entreDonovan customer is a savvy business professional who is interested in spending top dollar on high-quality, perfectly fitting suiting separates.
After we nailed down the preliminary persona, we thought about sustainability of managing the website. At Lantera, I have interacted with so many SMBs who have a custom Rails website that they can't manage; so it was important to create a solution that Linda (the CEO of entreDonovan) could manage. We selected Squarespace as the website for a number of reasons: an ultra user-friendly interface gave Linda the ability to hop in, manage the blog posts, and not have to hire a developer every time she simply wanted to post content.
Once we selected Squarespace, we thought about the purpose of entreDonovan’s retail website. (They also have a wholesale website is focused on B2B sales, but their retail website is really more about leading customers to the process of seeking custom garmenting.) We decided a content-driven garmenting platform is what we should create, so we told the story of entreDonovan by showcasing a video of their co-founder Fuong Fuong wearing a custom garment made by their team.
What's To Come
We'd like to help entreDonovan expand their product to users who aren't close enough to their shop in Wilmington Delaware — we'll using their scan data to create a proprietary algorithm that matches scanned body types to potential body types
We thought to use the Center for Disease Control's study data, which maps body proportion according to age, sex, race, and more, and try and build a predictive model, where based on your measurements and the existing body scans, we can really match everything up.
The entreDonovan Team
Our clients are truly our partners, and we have worked on entreDonovan from building an automated email campaign, to writing blog posts, to setting up an Affiliate network, to constructing a custom Python model. Our favorite kind of client is someone just like Linda, who dreams big, and is always trying to accomplish more; we couldn't be more proud to work with them.