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Key Takeaways From 5 A/B Tests With Significant Results

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(Posted on Jun 28, 2014 at 05:16AM by William Cosgrove)

By Jamie Smith

Interested in some real-life evidence of how A/B testing can generate significant lift in profit?

A/B testing is not something you do once and then forget about; it's an ongoing process to extract the maximum conversion rate for your website. It's a process that includes testing every last detail to find the optimal layout, text, and images for your site. Sometimes, even the smallest changes can yield significant results.

A-B Tesing

Let's take a look at five A/B tests with significant results.

1. Customer Testimonials

You can write copy at length about how your product or service will benefit your customers and do wonders for them, but third-party credibility is much more influential.

With that in mind, how would customers respond to impartial reviews from actual customers? Could the positive experience of previous customers help eliminate any apprehensions from the prospect about buying the product?

These were the questions asked by ecommerce store Express Watches. In their A/B test, they added a small widget below the Add to Basket button, where genuine customer reviews were displayed.

Testimonials

IMG testimonials visual website optimizer.png

The results were game-changing for the business. The positive customer reviews reduced buyer objections and boosted their sales by an impressive 58 percent.

The best thing about customer testimonials is they are incredibly easy to implement – just add them to your site or install something like the Trust Pilot widget.

Takeaway: Always use positive customer testimonials as social proof since third-party reviews carry much more weight than what you write about yourself.

2. Higher Prices = More Revenue (Sometimes)

Not all A/B tests require you to tweak your website's design; one of the simplest things you can test is your pricing strategy.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that when you reduce your prices, you will generally make more sales, and vice versa. However, less certain is the impact the change in price will have on your bottom line – will your monthly revenue be better or worse for the pricing change?

That's where the economic concept related to elasticity of demand comes in.

To explain this further, let's take a look at a pricing A/B test Six Pack Ab Exercises ran.

Uncertain as to whether they were leaving money on the table, owner Carl Juneau tried increasing the price of his product from $19.95 to $29.95.

Although the number of conversions fell by 9 percent, this was more than offset by the additional 50 percent revenue he was receiving per conversion. In time, this simple price change would allow him to bank 36.48 percent more revenue.

Now, increasing your price won't positively affect your bottom line in every case – in some cases alower price will yield a higher profit – but it does highlight the importance of finding your profit maximizing price.

Takeaway: Pricing strategy is part of A/B testing. Test higher and lower prices to see what brings in the most revenue and profit.

3. Trust Symbols Boost Conversions

With all the scam reports out there, online shoppers are understandably cautious about handing over their credit card details willy-nilly. You need to find a way to put their minds at ease. After all, would you buy something from a website you don't trust?

Credibility and trust is something that you develop over time, just like in a dating relationship. But, there are ways to increase the trust level of your website, even if you're new to the Internet.

Bag Servant identified lack of trust as a primary reason for low conversion rates and small order values on their site, and set about implementing an A/B test to improve performance.

Initially, Bag Servant was dependent on social proof, and prominently displayed a badge highlighting their 4,000+ strong Twitter following in an attempt to establish trust.

This wasn't working.

For their A/B test, they replaced the Twitter followers badge with a WOW award badge they had received.

Credibility

Because this badge was a relatively well-respected symbol in the industry, this improved the site's credibility and helped removed buyer's doubt.

The result? Conversion skyrocketed more than 72 percent.

Takeaway: Always look for ways to increase credibility on your site. This can be with awards, social followers, testimonials, or SSL trust symbols like Verisign, Hacker Safe, or McAfee.

4. Know Your Audience

You might think you understand what your audience wants, but just how well do you really know them?

Product quality, guarantees, offers, price, and shipping fees matter to all consumers. The bigger question is what matters most to your customers.

Smiley Cookie, a niche e-store, sells fresh, customized cookies as gifts for special occasions.

On their website, they wanted to add a new value proposition to help boost sales. They ran an A/B test to help them choose from the following:

  • Next-day shipping.
  • Discounted price.
  • Free shipping on orders above a certain value.
  • Fixed rate shipping for any order value.
  • High quality, handmade cookies.

What Matters to Customers

Smiley Cookie had expected that customers would be most responsive to the value propositions on price (discounts) and quality (handmade cookies).

But guess what? There was a surprise winner: next-day shipping.

How did that happen?

Because most customers tend to purchase cookies as a gift (and gifts are almost always last-minute things), making sure it arrives on time is imperative. Throw in the fact that cookies are perishable and need to arrive fresh, and perhaps the results aren't so surprising after all.

That's not to say that next-day delivery is the most important factor to your audience. It does show, however, that understanding what your audience really wants is vital for getting results with your A/B tests.

Takeaway: You need to find out what matters most to your customers and highlight that aspect of your product on the landing page or in the offer.

5. Accepted Best Practices Don't Work Every Time

Although a bit of logical thinking can often predict the outcome of an A/B test, ignorant Internet surfers love nothing more than throwing up anomalies that defy the conventional wisdom.

Here are four testing tips used to generate more revenue.

Remember, just because something works on one site – or even the vast majority of sites – doesn't necessarily mean it will work with you.

Let's look at an example to highlight this point: the Vendio signup form.

Now, any guide to CRO will tell you that an embedded signup form on the homepage will boost conversions; after all, if it takes fewer clicks for a user to register, they ought to be more likely to do so.

Sensibly, this was the approach Vendio took when first designing their layout.

Just to ensure they were taking the right approach, though, Vendio A/B tested their embedded form against an unconventional alternative: users would have to click an extra button to reach the signup form.

Surprisingly, this worked! With one extra step added to their conversion funnel, signups per visitor increased by 60 percent.

Takeaway: Don't blindly accept best practices. Find out what works best for you with independent testing.

Wrapping Up

Conversion rate optimization isn't an easy technique to master, particularly when there is such a wide range of variables and factors that go into testing.

And just because you've managed to increase your conversion rate doesn't mean you get to rest, especially if there are any major aspects of your site that haven't been tested. If you only focus on one page, you will be leaving money on the table.

Most importantly, the cost-per-click (CPC) to bring a visitor to your website is increasing and if you don't improve your conversion rate, your cost to acquire a customer (CPA) will continue to rise. Therefore, never stop testing, because even the smallest lift can yield big-time changes to your bottom line.

 

If A/B Testing Can Help Win Elections, What Can It Do for Your Business?

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(Posted on Apr 29, 2014 at 04:42AM by William Cosgrove)
Online retailers are always looking to differentiate themselves in more meaningful ways. Compelling shopping experiences, product recommendations, and overall superior customer service are key ways retailers set themselves apart. Today's data-driven marketing tools can help them unlock those experiences by using the data they have about their customers.

Prior to founding my own company, I served as the director of analytics on the 2008 Obama campaign. By experimenting with changes to elements of the campaign splash page, we were able to help raise an additional $57 million in campaign donations.

The guiding principles that made the campaign successful are no different from approaches online retailers and other marketers can adopt to make a real business impact.

First, you need to know your constituent. The behavior of visitors who come to your website is very much indicative of the kind of messaging that would work on them. What you show a returning visitor is different from what you'd show to a new visitor, or a mobile visitor vs. a desktop visitor.

The urgency for businesses to use data to show the right thing, to the right person, at the right time is stronger than ever. Targeted messaging is the most to effective way to get consumers to convert.


Second, you must know the facts. One of the greatest challenges (and areas for error) for businesses is getting the data right. Online retailers should take prudent effort to make sure the infrastructure and process they've implemented is sound. For example, the "novelty effect" suggests that just because a change has an impact initially doesn't mean it can be sustained over time. Will your customers grow tired of cyber deals every 10 minutes for a week?

Finally, it's imperative to ask the right questions. The challenge for online retailers is not about prescribing the right answers but about asking the right questions. For instance, are you trying to see whether a visitor will respond better to more product selections on a page, or fewer? Consider first what you want the answers to be, and those hypotheses will then help you decide what to measure.

Common examples of A/B testing for online retail include homepage bounce rates, category-page views, product-page views, shopping cart ads, and all stages in a checkout flow all the way to the Thank You page.

In general, to get more effective and relevant results, rather than asking "What are the variations we are testing?" consider asking "What question are we trying to answer?" To ensure the best return on your effort, first look at your Web analytics to see which pages have the most room for improvement. You'll want to attack those areas first.

The following are some actionable insights to help retailers optimize their sales by running website experiments that help them deliver a better experience to their visitors.

Homepage. The homepage is notoriously the most over-scrutinized page, yet it is also likely to be the most under optimized. For instance, imagine you're a consumer shopping on a retailer's website for a new coat. You arrive on the homepage and see a banner for a sale. Just as you're about to click it, the experience changes to pants. The rotating carousel of images means you have to continually reorient yourself, and it diffuses the focus of your original purpose. And when consumers are distracted, they're probably not purchasing.

Category pages. Unfortunately, most retailers tend to overlook their category pages; luckily, there are some easy and effective tests to evaluate them. One simple experiment centers on the performance of tiled vs. list views. For example, in our experience, the list views perform better and lift sales for scenarios in which consumers are making a complex purchase decision. The list format enables consumers to scan information easily and compare between categories; it also gives the retailer space to display the best sellers above the fold.

Product detail pages. Where does the consumer ultimately decide whether to buy or bounce? The product detail page is where the final persuasion happens. Therefore, it is one of the most important areas of your website.

Often, retailers are looking for a solution to a distinct challenge: solid brand awareness, but poor conversion. In that scenario, it's difficult for the retailer to determine what to improve. To increase conversion, I recommend carefully examining the following key conversion factors in the product detail pages:


  • Value proposition: Is it strong or weak?
  • Relevance: Is the content pertinent to the target audience and their needs?
  • Clarity: How clear is the imagery, eye flow, copywriting, and call to action?
  • Distraction: Are you redirecting attention from the primary message with too many product options? Are upsell and cross-sell options provided prematurely? Are design elements overwhelming the message?
  • Urgency: Are you giving the consumer a reason to act now?
Primary calls to action. At the sitewide checkout entry point, make your calls to action loud and clear. Test phrases like "add to cart" or "sign up for emails" to clarify what specifically you want your website to achieve and whether you are effectively directing shoppers to accomplish those goals.

For example, knowing that users become more invested as they click through the signup funnel, the 1-800-DENTIST team hypothesized that making the first step as simple as possible would decrease drop off rate and lead to more successful signups further down the funnel. To test the hypothesis, the team considered how to best simplify the first step without losing valuable data collection. Since all dentist matches depend on location, ZIP code was the most logical input to lead off with. Then, the team moved the two other fields—insurance and dental need—to pages later in the funnel, ensuring they would still be able to collect each piece of information. In less than a week, the team found that shortening the first step of the checkout funnel increased conversions 23.3%.

* * *

The greatest opportunity for online retailers today lies in facilitating the process of experimentation to help their teams move from the era of Mad Men into the era of Math Men. The role of creativity is still as important as it's always been, but now it's not centered on the most intuitively creative person but, rather, the most data-driven creative person.

We live in a time where you can let the data help you get to the right answers. You'll quickly find that the tests take the guesswork out of website optimization and enable data-backed decisions that shift business conversations from "we think" to "we know."

And knowing your website's weaknesses means that you can turn them into strengths and sales.

by Dan Siroker
 
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