A / B testing, also known as split testing or variant testing, is a process where two variations of the same web page, digital ad or any other type of digital content are shown to your audience. Ordinarily, they’ll be set to a 50% view share, creating an equal random choice when people engage. The idea is that you’re able to test which of the variants is better at performing a particular action. What we’re looking at in a little more detail here are web pages.

When we talk about the online world, the number of people who visit your site, are, for the most part, the number of potential opportunities you have to acquire new customers and expand your business or to cater to your existing customers.

The challenge is getting the right kinds of people to your site, and once you’ve done that, you need to make sure you’re maximising every opportunity you have to get those people to convert or take an action.

This is what you’ll measure as your conversion rate and essentially, the higher your conversion rate, the better you’re doing. This is where Conversion Rate Optimisation or CRO comes into play. It’s the art of funnel optimisation to increase the conversion rate on a site.

We call it an art because there really are many things that go into it and there is no fixed recipe to achieve an exact outcome. It’s about finding the right mix, pulling the right levers and offering the right message to your audience and no two are ever the same.

What we’ve looked at here is one of the components of CRO. Some say it is one of the most important as it is a highly effective way to test assumptions and work that is being developed throughout the process.

Typically, the variant that has the highest level of success or conversions is the winning one and that variant can help you continue to optimise and test for better results. It is an iterative process, which rarely reaches an end.

Your success or conversion will be unique to your website. For example, an e-commerce site it might be the sale of a product while for B2B it might be the downloading of an eBook, signing up to a newsletter or filling in a contact form.

 

Why Should You Be A / B Testing?

 

Maybe you’re a B2B business unhappy with the unqualified leads you’re getting per month or even the potential lack of any leads or you’re an eCommerce store struggling with a high cart abandonment rate.

These core conversion metrics are affected by some of the same kinds of problems like leaks in the conversion funnel, drop-offs on the payment page or high bounce rates across the website.

A / B testing is what is going to help you move the needle on getting these things fixed. Even experts need the ability to prove that what they’re developing is working and A / B testing is what they turn to.

Working to create content that is better suited to your audience, trying to achieve a higher ROI from your existing traffic, reduce the bounce rate or make small low-risk modifications and improvements to your website are all measured using A /B Testing. It is what lets you know you’re on the right track.

 

What Can You A / B Test?

 

To be honest, there isn’t very much that can’t be tested. When we look at ads it might be the image, messaging or the call to action. On a website, it could be the same but most often a web page will contain more than that of an ad. This list looks at a few of the areas but it is by no means exhaustive.

The thing to remember is that although there are a huge number of things that can be adjusted and tested, you need to make sure that you’re not testing too much at the same time. You need to be able to understand which change actually has the effect.

Alongside standard A / B testing you might have heard the term multivariate testing. In A / B testing, traffic is split amongst two or more completely different versions of a webpage. In multivariate testing, multiple combinations of a few key elements of a page are tested against each other to figure out which combination works best for the goal of the test. Before you start changing things up, you have to figure out which kind of test you want to perform.

 

Copy and Messaging:

We’re talking headlines, sub-headlines and body copy. Think literally everything that is written on the page.

Your headline is in most instances the first thing that visitors will see on your page. The headline offers your first impression and the first impression is what determines if the visitor will go further down your conversion funnel.

This is why it becomes so important to get this right. With the A / B testing you can include different fonts, sizes, copy, and messaging.

The body of your website should clearly state what your visitor is getting – It’s the message you’re trying to deliver letting them know what’s in store for them. It should also further define what your page’s headline was talking to.

A well-written headline and body can increase the chances of conversion on your website and some of the things to think about are:

  • 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.

 

Design and Layout:

Along with the copy, the design and layout of a page includes images like your product images, offer images and hero images and videos such as product demonstrations, advertisements or hero videos. Your page should answer all of 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 add 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.
  • Write simple and conversational content: Avoid confusing visitors with complicated language and acronyms in the quest to appear overly subject smart. Keep it simple, easy to understand and fun to read.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Give people a reason to take action. Adding tags like ‘only 2 left in stock’, countdowns like ‘offer ends in 2 hours 15 minutes’, or highlight 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.

 

Navigation:

The key to getting people across the site effectively, your navigation can either keep people engaged or drive them off in a fit of rage.

Think about adding or removing shortcuts, including a big bright CTA button to drive them to action or maybe include extra information like contact details. 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 know for a particular thing that people come looking for or are you trying to get people to engage with something new, or you think complements your best sellers? Lift them up 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, 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.

 

Forms:

Forms are what prospective customers use to get in touch with you. They become incredibly important if they are part of your purchase funnel.

Just as no two websites are the same, no two forms are the same. While for some businesses, a small comprehensive form may work, for others long forms might do wonders for their lead quality.

To figure out which style works best for your audience, research through A / B testing to determine the problem area in your form and work towards optimising it. Remove barriers that get filling in the form. Do you really need a phone number to start the process of nurturing a lead? Is it that important to know where a person came from or when their birthday is? Anything where a person asks “Why do you need to know that?” is a problem. Some of this information can be collected once the lead is in the funnel and you’ve started to work with them.

 

Call to Action (CTA):

The CTA is where the rubber hits the road, it’s where your visitors will choose to finish their purchases, fill out the sign-up form or just walk away. It either drives or discourages action.

With A/B testing, you can test different copy, placement, colours & sizes for your CTA till you find the winning variation and then test the winning version further to optimise it even more.

 

Pricing:

Does exposing the price of your solution help or hinder the chances of your visitors converting? With A / B testing, you’ll be able to test the theory.

It might be that showing the pricing, at a high level, as a payment plan drives conversion. If it is a service offering, from pricing vs actual pricing, could have a dramatic effect on whether someone wants to reach out or not.

If you’re in a highly competitive market and your customers are price-led, it could be the thing that allows you to stand out from your competition. There are a lot of people that believe if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it but in the same vein, what people apply as a value can be very different person to person.

 

Social Proof:

People buy from people and for years word of mouth and now social media have driven huge uptake and conversion for customers. 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations on social media and their definitions of an influencer alter dramatically from one person to another.

This is what social proof is and it can take the form of recommendations and reviews from experts of their particular fields, from celebrities and customers themselves, or can come as testimonials, media mentions, awards, badges and certificates.

The presence of these validates the claims made by your website. A / B testing can help you understand if adding social proof is a good idea, what kinds of social proof work and how many should be added. You can test different kinds of social proof, layout, and placement.

 

How Do You A / B Test?

 

It should be a relatively simple process, but the complexity and potential pitfalls are vast and everywhere.

It starts with research, you formulate and prepare, create the variations, run the test, gather the results and analyse before starting the process again. This is the process in its simplest form.

There are heaps of tools out there that can help you with things like heat mapping, seeing where people are spending most of their time on a page, creating the variant pages and splitting your audience on entry and taking the data and helping you analyse it.

The biggest trick is knowing where to start and knowing where to go with the information. Anyone can run the test, but do they really understand what it is they’re doing?

This is where a solid CRO partner is worth their weight in gold. They’re trained to do just this, and their experience means they can get you running and optimising faster. No learning curve, just straight to results.

At Eclipse our Experience team works with clients every day to test their sites and work to create a better conversion rate for them.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC. We’ll also work with you to boost your conversion rate through CRO or help you learn more about your customers through user research as a first step.

Talk to us about how we can start running A / B testing for you and your website as part of an effective CRO programme. We’re here to help and it all starts with a conversation.