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A/B Testing

a/b-testing-what-is-a/b-testing

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing – also called split testing – is a method of optimizing effectiveness by directly comparing the performance of two different versions of a web page simultaneously: version A and version B. 

An A B test, website users are randomly assigned to version A or version B when visiting the website. Through statistical analysis of the user’s actions, it is possible to determine whether one version of the website is more effective. 

A B testing is a results-driven methodology for increasing conversion rates, website optimization, and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on your website. In other words, it takes the guesswork out of optimization.

Let’s say that the landing page of your website receives a lot of traffic. This means that your website has good search intent in the online world, and prospective customers engage with your product. That’s great. More traffic equals more opportunities to achieve a successful conversion.

Now, let’s say that your website has a massive drop-off in numbers in the second stage of the journey. Every website experiences a drop in numbers, but a decline of uncommon statistical significance suggests that your landing is poorly optimized or faulty. At this point, AB testing will help identify the problem or optimize the conversion rate of your landing page. 

It is important to note that testing is crucial even if your website performs well and achieves good results in terms of successful conversions or eCommerce. Split test experiments can always improve performance and user experience because there is no such thing as a totally optimized website.

Implementation of an A B testing can take many different forms. One important test variation is multivariate testing (MVT). Multivariate testing is the process of running multiple A B tests on top of each other.

MVT’s value is not simply that it can consider more than two versions of a website at once. MVT also shows how different variables interact with each other. It is an effective way of finding the optimal design combination on landing pages with a large number of variables.

How important is A B testing for online businesses?

A B testing is essential for online businesses. Research by Invesp found that 77 percent of companies perform A B analysis on their websites. It is so popular because it allows businesses to make sure of data-driven decisions about their eCommerce website’s user experience and increase revenue. 

To put things into perspective. Google ran its first A B test in the year 2000. By 2011 that number had increased to 7000 per year. By contrast, Bing ran over 1000 tests per month as recently as 2018 and raised its revenue per search by between 10 and 25 percent year on year in the race to catch up.

Of course, A B testing is not only for giant tech companies. Invesp found that 63 percent of companies believe it is not difficult to implement A B testing, and only 44 percent use A B testing tools or software. 

All of this means that it is possible to start A B testing and experience the benefits for your business no matter how big or small, but be aware that, on average, A B testing will need at least 25,000 visitors to show any trend of statistical significance.

One of the universal benefits of running an A/B experiment is that it helps ensure continuous improvement over time. It allows you to achieve long-term goals such as conversion rate optimization through the cumulative effect of individual positive changes to the user experience.

Benefits of continuously running split tests on your website

There are multiple benefits to running an A B test on your website. A B tests are easy and cheap to implement and make sure that your business receives all the essential information regarding user experience. 

In the end, the A B test is an advantageous methodology. Typical benefits of A B tests include:

  • Improved user experience: Test everything. Your website, emails, and apps are all optimizable. Test the subject line, headline, images, contact form, font, button color, call to action, can all be tested one-by-one. Successful user engagement relies on a user-friendly website.
  • Better content: Writing excellent ad copy and strategic CTAs requires knowing what language is effective for your users. Analyzing data from your A B test results is an easy way to determine which words resonate with your audience.
  • Better conversion rates: Effective CTAs can also depend on placement or color. It is worth testing everything as your CTA is your best shot of converting a visitor into a lead or a sale.
  • Lower bounce rate: Every website suffers from a high bounce rate. Suppose users are leaving your website very quickly or not engaging with your landing page. In that case, you might want to test your headlines, layout, introductions, and CTAs to improve engagement and keep the user on the page long enough to discover your product’s value. 
  • Better data: Good data is the one thing that your website can never have enough of. Testing A B variables is simple, effective, and easy to analyze. It is the best way to get a better understanding of the way that users interact with your website and your product.
  • More sales: Of course, this is the one metric that everybody wants to improve. Optimizing problems such as shopping cart abandonment can make or break your business. Research from Statista in March 2020 shows 88 percent order abandonment. If this is happening on your website, you should test your buy / add to bag buttons, test new payment methods and layouts to see what brings a user through the conversion funnel.

How to perform AB tests

A B Testing is easier to implement than you might think. Although the industry is growing rapidly, your website probably doesn’t require a special A B testing tool to get started with optimization. Before we move into examples of A B testing in practice, let’s go through some essential elements of your website or online store to be A B testing.

What elements should you AB test?

Let’s break down your typical website step-by-step and look at all the elements that your business might want to test.

Copy

First things first, let’s break this down into headlines and body text. Users typically skim a website by reading in an “F shape” (briefly scanning headlines and subheadings before moving on to find the right information.)

  1. Headlines 

Headlines and subheadings are the first things that a user reads on a website. Your headline defines your product identity, and a well-written headline is the difference between a user continuing down the conversion funnel or bouncing. Test everything about your headlines and subheadings to ensure optimal results – font, size, color, placement, and messaging. Get your messaging on point because your website will not get a second chance at a first impression.

  1. Body

Your website’s body text should be in sync with your headlines. If a user arrives at your landing page because of your headline – your body text should explain that headline in the first few sentences or your user will bounce. Your introductions will decide whether or not a user engages with the rest of your copy, and your website should continuously test them. Once the results are in, it is time to start thinking about style and formatting.  

Layout and Design

Unless your website has serious artistic aspirations, try not to rock the boat when it comes to layout and design. Clean and simple is always better than pretty but complex. Keep in mind what the purpose of your website is. For eCommerce, your product page is the most important. Give the user all the information necessary to complete the purchase, but try not to overwhelm. Test images, product copy, add to bag buttons and test different ways to highlight customer reviews and increase the need to buy now. For example, ‘10 left in stock’ might sway a user into a sale due to the urgency principle.

Navigation

Clear and obvious navigation is probably the most critical part of successful user engagement on your website. Plan meticulously to ensure that the path through the conversion funnel makes sense. Pages ought to be linked together in ways that are plain to understand. The clean navigation of your favorite websites is an example of AB testing in action. Test all your website’s links and search bar positioning to improve.

CTA (Call To Action)

The ultimate AB testing example: CTA. Improving the conversion rate of your CTAs is where the A B test really comes into its own. From generating leads to moving users off your landing pages and down the conversion funnel, effective CTAs are the best sales driver for your eCommerce website. Test copy, placement, color, size, button shape, and everything you can think of until your website has the right balance. Data from CTA tests is a powerful tool, and when used correctly, the results will speak for themselves.

1. Plan

Identify a metric on your website that you would like to improve—for example, bounce rate. Consider which aspects of the page are most important, what does the user see first, what information does the user need, how does the user progress? Identify an element that can be optimized to help your website achieve an improvement in a key metric.

2. Select a page

Careful planning ought to reveal the page most closely related to the metric that your website can improve on. For example, the bounce rate is most likely to be affected by landing pages. 

3. Choose one element

Identify the element that is likely to have the most significant impact. Optimizing for a better bounce rate on most websites is about the headline. Align the headline with the identity of the product.

4. Make one change

Start with a single element that is related to the metric of choice. Your test data will be easier to understand with just one variable. 

5. Analyze

Different types of tests will bring different test results. Suppose the data shows that one headline outperforms another by a large margin. In that case, it is worth recording the keywords that resonate with the user and incorporating them into your website or product identity.

6. Create a variant

Once a large enough sample size has established your winning element, it is time to create a variant. Take one part of the winning copy in this scenario and alter another aspect, such as font, positioning, or size.  

Expand this methodology to include almost every aspect of your website. Once the process is clear, your website will benefit from more complex methods such as MVT.

Mistakes to avoid when performing A/B tests

  • Not planning

A solid plan and a strong hypothesis is an absolute must when entering into this process. Your roadmap should be in place before starting. Identify a goal and consider the initial element to change. But, also consider the natural consequences of that change and use that information to make an informed hypothesis. A signal that your theory is invalid would be tests that gradually tend towards failure rather than success.

  • Testing too much at once

The beauty of the A B test is that it shows precise results. Running too many at once can make it very difficult to understand which variant is causing the positive results that your website needs to optimize. It is better to move slower with useful information than faster and risk losing track of your improvement roadmap.

  • Not understanding the process

An A B test is an iterative process. Correctly carrying out an iterative process requires that each step in the process comes from the previous process’s direct result. Analyze your data and use it to decide where to go next.

  • Going with your gut

This is a tough one because it is always challenging to put personal preference aside. Let the numbers speak for themselves. As much as your preference may be for one element – experience is subjective. Tests are a great way to find the most palatable solution for your users across the board.

With all these pointers, your website should be well underway to reach new user engagement levels and successful conversions. 

Written by

Author avatar

Damien

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