Selling online is highly competitive. You are competing for search-engine users clicks so that your product can be found. Then, you are competing for their business once they do find you. A large number of variables are at play to determine whether a customer finds you and whether or not they choose to purchase from you after they do. Optimizing those variables in your favor is key to growing your online sales.
A/B testing, also known as split testing, is one of the ways that you can optimize those variables. It works by comparing two versions of something. For example, checking to see which one performs better: the product descriptions or ad copy. In the latter case, ad copy A will be shown to one group of customers and ad copy B will be shown to another. You can then use analytics and conversion tracking to see which copy performed better. With that data in hand, you can make the better performing copy your primary version and set up another test to see if something can beat it. In this way, you are continually using test results to find the most effective tools to grow your sales. When you do this for as many variables as possible, the effect on sales can be profound.
Most of the popular testing tools offer you choices that go beyond a basic A/B test. By putting all of these tests to work together, you can get results that are better than any single test could accomplish on its own. The key is finding which test is ideal for the variables you want to test and then considering if those results could be further refined with the help of another test. Let's take a look at some of the common tests available to see what we mean.
This is the basic A/B test. It will compare two versions of a web page against one another and tell you which one performs best in whichever metric you are testing. It works by tracking elements on the page. Further, swap out the elements dynamically on your server and the optimization tools will know which version of the page is shown.
Sometimes, you want to test radically different versions of a page. Perhaps you have several landing pages and you want to see which one is the best. This is technically still A/B testing, but the optimization tools will be tracking the two based on the page's URL rather than an element within the page. In that way, it is a simplified version of the standard A/B test that will require less work on your end.
This type of testing allows you to test multiple elements at once. The advantage of this type of testing is that you can see how those elements interact with one another. Perhaps you have two versions of a header and two versions of sales copy. Individually, header A and copy A may perform the best. However, it's possible that header A and copy B work better together as a unit.
One of the core concepts in marketing strategy is to identify a customer persona and create ad copy that appeals to that persona. This is because people respond to things differently and what works for one customer may not work for another. Personalization testing helps with this by allowing you to identify market segments and see which of your variables performs the best with that segment.
Now that you know what A/B testing is, it's time to talk about how running an A/B test can help your business. These types of tests help to improve your sales through a number of different mechanisms. Let's take a look at some of the things that you'll gain by implementing a robust A/B testing strategy.
One of the key factors in the success of your website is its user experience. A website that is clunky and hard to navigate will be exited from long before anyone has a chance to buy anything. Many of the things that can be A/B tested for will help to guide you toward the best user experience possible. This includes things such as the appearance of buttons and the placement of navigational items.
Improving the user experience of your site will also keep visitors around longer and ensure that they visit more pages. The benefits of this extend beyond the obvious effect on sales. By increasing the engagement on your website, you will also be helping your ranking in the algorithms of the various search engines which will allow for more organic growth.
Your conversion rate is the number of times a given goal is met divided by the number of visitors to your site. Whatever that goal may be, A/B testing will help you refine the elements of your site that lead the customer to it. The most obvious goal is, of course, getting a sale. Sales are obviously an important part of your business as you would have no business without them. They are not the only thing worth tracking and improving upon though.
There are plenty of things that will indirectly lead to more sales. This includes goals such as having a customer add something to their wish list, having them request a notification when a product they are interested in becomes available or goes on sale, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a whitepaper that explains your service to them, and much more.
When putting together your list of things to run A/B tests for, think of all of the little things that will add up to more sales and run tests to increase conversions on those just the same as you would for direct sales.
Cart abandonment is a big source of lost income. There are tools available that will reach out to a customer after a given amount of time and try to lure them back. A/B testing on your abandoned cart email will improve its effectiveness. A better option is to not have the cart abandoned in the first place. Customers abandon carts for a number of reasons that can be improved upon with proper A/B testing.
Perhaps your call to action is weak. Maybe there are too many steps in the checkout process. It could be that you should more prominently display confidence-boosting information such as customer testimonials, awards, and security certifications. As you learn to embrace a thorough A/B testing strategy, each of these items and more will begin to improve and reduce the number of times a customer abandons their cart on your site.
We've already discussed some great things to test in order to improve certain aspects of your site's performance or the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. Below is a list of some of the most common tests that online merchants run. Use it to get an idea of the types of things that you'll test for when you design your A/B testing strategy.
UX is a rather broad category and could have been several items on the list by itself. Everything from button color to font size and style can have an effect on how visitors perceive your site and how likely they are to purchase from it. Beyond appearances, the layout of the site plays an important role. The location of the shopping cart button may make a difference as to whether you make a sale or not.
The key to improving your user experience is to not only improve the appearance of the site but to stay relentless in the pursuit of frictionless checkout. You should always be looking for ways to make it easier for visitors to your site to give you money.
You now know all about A/B testing, what it is, how it can help you, and the types of things that you should test for. What you don't know yet is how to actually do the testing! Thankfully, there are a number of great tools available that will help you set up and run A/B testing. We've compiled a list of the top five tools below along with a brief description of each.
Tools such as Google Analytics have long been popular with marketers because they are both free and powerful. Google has built upon its analytics capabilities to provide a platform specifically for A/B testing called Google Optimize. The tool provides everything you could want in an A/B testing platform, though not in the easiest to use format.
For a more user-friendly experience than Google Optimize, there are premium services available such as Optimizely. Although Optimizely isn't free, it also isn't very expensive considering the powerful tools that it puts at your disposal. Because the product requires less expertise and development time than Google's offering, you'll probably end up saving money in labor costs.
Everything that was said about Optimizely could be said about VWO. The two are competitors and are very similar, but not identical, in what they offer. They are the Pepsi to each other's Coke. Just as people have different tastes in soda, they'll have different preferences in optimization platforms. If your decision comes down to these two, we recommend you examine what both offer and pick the one that appeals the most to you.
If you have a very large number of variables that you want to test, Adobe Target might be the platform for you. It employs powerful machine learning algorithms that allow you to automate your testing practices and get results quicker. Although it isn't as easy to use as Optimizely and VWO, the ability to automate tasks with machine learning makes it a favorite among developers with large sites to manage.
We mentioned Optimizely's biggest competitor and now we'll do the same for Adobe Target. If you are looking for a tool with powerful machine learning and automation tools and want to see what options are available, Evergage is certainly worth looking into alongside Adobe Target.
Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.
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