Bart Schutz, Chief Persuasion Officer at Online Dialogue on consumer psychology, poor A/B testing and much more

9 September, 2014 - 12.24 PM

Closeup Bart Schutz

Hi Bart, you are Chief Persuasion Officer at Online Dialogue. Please, tell us about the relevance of conversion optimization for your work. What are you doing in this field, and where do you want to go within the next year?

As a passionate consumer psychologist, companies hire me to separate people from their money (and a very few to make them more happy or financially fit). I do so by optimizing the persuasiveness of their online dialogues, which is measured in terms of conversions. So basically CRO is all I do (although I personally prefer CRO as an abbreviation of ‘Cerebral Revenue Optimization’ ;-).

For next year’s desires: I consider online a ‘World Wide Walhalla’ for psychologists. We can measure human behaviour on an unprecedented scale; using API’s to combine huge amounts of behavioural data. We can test huge amounts of people that do not even know they’re being tested. As my company expands beyond The Netherlands we’re currently shifting our focus to find more and more cultural differences, and I’m looking to connect to universities to grow each other’s knowledge.

What mobile device can you not live without?

My Festool Quadrive DRC cordless drill

What app do you use most often?

According to my iPhone it’s YouTube. But I guess if I subtract my sons it’ll be: 1) Mail, 2) G-Maps, 3) G-HangOuts, 4) FaceTime

What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?


What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?

Whether I didn’t forget to charge it.

Take me through your typical workday.

After checking whether I didn’t forget to charge my phone and the usual family life hassle, I make myself a ‘really really good coffee’. In my car I call back people I couldn’t answer the day before. I get to the headquarters of a large bank and work with their online marketing team on a series of a/b-tests. I grab some lunch and drive back to our HQ/open workspace Here I spend the afternoon training a group of online marketers in persuasion techniques. Finally I have diner with my 2 business partners, drive home, have some usual family hassle and I forget to put my phone in the charger.

What work challenge keeps you up at night?

Tests that explore the irrational emotional subconscious parts of our brain processes keep me up every night.

What has been the most exciting work development this year?

Experiencing the exponential growth in the desire of companies worldwide to truly understand human behaviour and how to influence it.

How many miles have you travelled this year?

Enough to start worrying about my carbon-footprint.

Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?

I was in a coma for days at the age of 4 (due to bacterial meningitis). My brain activity has since then often been scanned and never been like that of a ‘normal’ brain.

What other career would you like to try?

Behavioural Economics Professor, or start a company that puts green engines in oldtimers.

What does your desk look like right now?

It looks pretty much like my lap with a MacBook on it.

What is the last business book you read?

The 3rd revised edition of “Social Beings – Core Motives in Social Psychology” by Susan Fiske (although reading might be a big word to describe my flipping through pages).

Outside of your company’s efforts, what marketing campaign or video caught your eye recently?

I’m not a big fan of one-off marketing campaigns. I like structurally exceeding expectations more. But as you’re asking, I like all “Little acts of Happiness-campaigns”, like last Christmas’ WestJet (, and the video on the ‘checkout thank you’-page of one of my favourite clients Conrad (

Is conversion optimization getting sufficient attention in corporations today? If not what do you think needs to happen to change this?

Not enough by far, especially not within most larger corporates. But you can’t blame the boards and higher management. There’s nothing sexy about CRO, it’s nitty-gritty granular efforts we do. And the worst is that most of us do it wrong. I guess that at least 80% of all A/B-tests results are not solid. That’s why the CRO-expert thinks he doubled sales, but the sales manager experiences no differences in the back-end at all.

We first have to get CRO to the next level: From conversion rates of a stupid page to Customer Lifetime Optimization, or any other ‘board-level-kpi’. We have to start providing integrated optimization solutions across all channels. Gain mind-blowing insights on consumer level, prove the board our subconscious drives our consumers and hire consumer psychologists to come up with optimisations that have way better effects than the rational marketing bullshit most companies are now focussing on.

And before I forget: We have to be way more expensive to be even bothered about.

You are a speaker at the upcoming Conversion Conference on 29-30th October in London. The title of your session is “The Wheel of Persuasion: 200 Techniques for Winning Customers”. What makes this topic so important and relevant? 

As a consumer psychologist, I’ll explain a bit about how our brain works. And it’s not how you think it works. Prepare for a reality that is far from what your lying and pretending brain is telling you…

What can participants of your session expect from your presentation – and what do you expect from the attendees?

High expectations kill good experiences, so please don’t expect too much… (in return I will not expect too much of the audience… 😉

Machine Learning, Big Data, Agility, Holistic Optimisation are all hot topics in 2014. What do you think is pure hype and what could be a substantial change for conversion optimisation?

I think all hypes are overestimated in the short run, but underestimated in the long run. In the long run CRO will be crucial in being successful My main concern for the future is that if we do indeed keep on gathering huge amounts of behavioural and even neuro data from our customers, and we keep on testing what influences them, that we know better what determines their behaviour than they know themselves. Is that still a fair game?

Please make a prediction for conversion optimisation: what trends drive conversion optimisation in the upcoming 1-2 years?

Adding more and more Psychology to the equation, and aggregating more and more behavioural data sources.

And one more personal question: what is your favourite conversion optimisation tool or method? And why?

Either Google Tag Manager (since we can now skip IT completely and no longer need testing tools), R (extreme statistics for free 🙂 and finally EEG and fMRI in UX-labs (to get a little insight in which brain processes are involved).

Thank you for your time and answers! We look forward to welcoming you in Berlin in November at the upcoming Conversion Conference!

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