What is A/B Testing and Why Do You Need It

May 13, 2024
Paul Wright
This is some text inside of a div block.

A/B testing, also known as split testing or variant testing, is a crucial process in digital marketing where two variations of the same webpage, digital ad, or any other type of digital content are presented to your audience. Each variation is shown to a segment of your audience, typically set to a 50% view share, allowing for an equal random choice when people engage. The objective is to determine which variant performs better in achieving a specific action. In this discussion, we’ll delve into A/B testing for web pages and why it’s essential for maximising conversions and improving user experience.

Why Do You Need A/B Testing?

In the online world, the number of visitors to your website represents potential opportunities to acquire new customers or serve existing ones. However, attracting the right audience is just the first step. You must ensure that every visit counts by maximising conversions or desired actions. This is measured by your conversion rate, and the higher it is, the more successful your website is at achieving its goals. Here's where Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) comes into play—it's the process of optimising your website to increase its conversion rate.

A/B testing is a critical component of CRO. It's an effective way to test assumptions and refine strategies throughout the optimisation process. By testing different variations of your web pages, you can identify what resonates best with your audience and continuously improve your conversion rates.

Consider this scenario: an e-commerce store struggling with a high cart abandonment rate. A/B testing can help identify the factors contributing to this issue, whether it's leaks in the conversion funnel, usability issues, or ineffective messaging. Even experts need to validate their strategies, and A/B testing provides the evidence needed to make data-driven decisions.

What Can You A/B Test?

 Virtually everything on your website can be subject to A/Btesting. Here are some key areas to consider:

 1. Copy and Messaging:

- Headlines, sub-headlines, and body copy are crucial for capturing visitors' attention and communicating your message effectively. Test different variations to find the most compelling copy that drives conversions.

  • This to consider should include:
    Writing style: Use the right tone for your target audience. You should directly address the visitor and answer all their questions. It should consist of key phrases that improve usability and stylistic elements that highlight important points.
  • Formatting: Use relevant headlines and sub-headlines, break the copy into small and easy paragraphs, and format it for skimmers using bullet points or lists.

An Example: A software company can test different headlines for its product landing page to see which one resonates best with its target audience. Variations could include different messaging focusing on benefits, features, or pain points.

2. Design and Layout:

- Images, videos,and overall layout play a significant role in user experience. Test different design elements to optimise the visual appeal and clarity of your website.

Your page should answer all your users’ questions without confusing them and without getting cluttered. These are the kinds of things you could think about adding to variants when you’re testing.

  • Provide clear information: Based on what you sell, find creative ways to provide all necessary context and accurate descriptions, so that visitors do not get overwhelmed with unorganised copy while looking for answers to their questions.
  • Highlight customer reviews: Adding both good and bad reviews for your products and services adds credibility to your store. Avoiding the bad and looking too ‘squeaky clean’ can set off a visitor’s alarm bells. In a world where we’ve been bombarded with fake news, if it seems too good to be true, people believe it is.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Give people a reason to act. Adding tags like ‘only 2 left in stock’, countdowns like ‘offer ends in 2 hours 15 minutes’, or highlighting     exclusive discounts and festive offers to nudge the prospective buyer to purchase is a good thing but you need to make sure that if you’re using them, they're true. There are bunches of websites out there adding countdown timers that appear to expire, but when you return to the site at the time when it is supposed to have expired, it has simply reset.

For example: An online retailer can test different product image layouts to see if larger images or additional product angles lead to higher conversions. They can also test the placement and design of the add-to-cart button to make it more prominent and clickable.

3. Navigation:

- Navigation should guide visitors smoothly through your website, making it easy for them to find what they're looking for. Test different navigation structures and elements to improve user engagement and reduce bounce rates.

What you’re testing here is what is going to keep people on the site, visiting more places and products you have on offer.

  • Highlight Best Sellers: Are you known for a particular thing that people come looking for or are you trying to get people to engage with something new, or do you think complements your best sellers? Lift them out of the depths of a list. It’s great showing people all the categories and sub-categories you have but every click you add pushes people away.
  • Drive a story: If you’ve built a single-page site, you can use the navigation to drive people exactly where they need it, or you want them to go by using the options.     Once you’ve done some testing and you know what is driving engagement, you can alter the navigation to drive people to those areas.

An Example: A travel website can test different navigation menus to see if reorganising categories or adding dropdown menus improves user navigation and encourages exploration of travel destinations.

4. Forms:

- Forms are critical for capturing user information or leads. Test different form lengths ,layouts, and fields to optimise conversion rates and minimise form abandonment.

It’s best to just capture the information you need rather than trying to ask for everything, just in case. The longer the form the more likely it is that people won’t complete them.

A test we’ve seen do well for some brands was simply moving the form from the right-hand side of the page to the left. Most pages place the copy on the left and the form on the right but behaviour suggests that people take action from the left first, in most cases, and so moving the form over lifts the priority for the visitor.

An Example: A B2B company can test different form layouts for its contact page, experimenting with the number of fields required and the order in which they appear. They can also test form validation messages to see if they influence completion rates.

5. Call to Action (CTA):

- The CTA is where visitors decide to act. Test different CTA copy, colours, sizes, and placements to maximise clicks and conversions.

An Example: An online service provider can test variations of its CTA button text, such as "Get Started" versus "Sign UpNow," to see which one prompts more conversions. They can also test different button colours to determine which one stands out the most.

6. Pricing:

- Test different pricing strategies, including displaying prices upfront or offering payment plans, to see how they impact conversions.

The layout and display of pricing tables are goldmines for testing what triggers action from visitors. There is a lot of psychology behind pricing and this blog is an interesting read to see just how much of an effect it has on customers.

An Example: A subscription-based service can test whether displaying monthly versus yearly pricing plans leads to higher subscription rates. They can also experiment with different discount offers to see which ones drive more conversions.

7. Social Proof:

- Incorporate social proof elements such as customer reviews, testimonials, and endorsements to build trust and credibility. Test different types and placements of social proof to see what resonates best with your audience.

Example: An e-commerce store can test the placement of customer reviews on product pages—above the fold versus below the product description—to see which placement generates more trust and encourages purchases.

How Do You A/B Test?

A/B testing follows a structured process that involves research, preparation, testing, analysis, and iteration. Here's a simplified overview:

1. Research: Identify areas of your website that could benefit from optimisation and formulate hypotheses for improvement.

2. Preparation: Create variations of the elements you want to test, ensuring they are distinct and measurable.

3. Testing: Run the A/B test using a reliable testing tool, ensuring that you split your audience randomly and evenly between the variants.

4. Gathering Results: Monitor the test to collect data on key metrics, such as conversion rates, click-through rates, and engagement.

5. Analysis: Analyse the results to determine which variant performed better and draw insights for future optimisation efforts.

6. Iteration: Implement the winning variation and continue to iterate and test other elements to further improve performance.

While A/B testing can be executed independently, partnering with a CRO expert can accelerate the process and ensure optimal results. Experienced professionals can guide you through the testing process, interpret results accurately, and implement effective strategies to improve your website's conversion rate.

At Eclipse, our Experience team specialises in A/B testing and Conversion Rate Optimisation. We work closely with clients to optimise their websites for maximum conversions, whether through design, user experience, or content enhancements. If you're ready to start running A/B tests and improving your website's performance, let's start a conversation today.

Paul Wright
UX/UI Designer