As the owner of an online store, you never run out of work: customer support, supplier management, inventory management and much more. Last but not least, of course, marketing. Optimization through A/B testing has a special place in the marketing mix of a company.
A/B testing is one of the most important tools for advanced stores to find out exactly where hidden potential lies. In this article, you'll learn what A/B testing is all about, who it's important for, and how to best implement it.
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing is a method to find out which website design, content or functionality is most successful with the visitors of your website. It allows you to test a variation or element of your site that can influence the behavior of your customers.
Common examples of A/B testing include changing the color of a button. Imagine you want to know if your visitors is more likely to buy something if the "Add to cart" button is green or red. In an A/B test, you test both colors for a while and then see which one worked better. In this way, you can make data-based optimizations in your store piece by piece that are tailored to your target group.
However, many e-commerce businesses don't know how to run A/B testing effectively. Yet A/B tests, when done well, are an effective way to improve your company's key metrics.
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Why is A/B testing important?
Did you know that, according to Statista, a German online portal for statistics, 44.5% of companies worldwide consider customer experience to be the most important differentiator from the competition? But creating a good customer experience isn't just about using your intuition to predict what will attract and convert potential customers. Rather, you need tangible insights into what your target audience actually wants.
Entrepreneurs make the same mistake again and again at this point: they trust their gut feeling too much. Especially in self-employment and a complex e-commerce project, you sometimes should listen to your intuition. When it comes to store optimization, the most promising way is guaranteed to be an A/B testing.
A/B tests not only bring your store to success faster, they also save important resources such as time and money. With carefully designed tests, you quickly get meaningful results that move your online store forward.
Probably the most prominent example of successful testing and optimization is Amazon. The U.S. corporation has grown from an e-commerce store that sold only books to the largest online retailer in the world. Much of this success is due to constant testing, experimentation and development of innovations.
Check out how Amazon has revolutionized the online shopping experience:
- the one-click order
- Dash buttons, which allow products to be reordered simply by pressing a button
- free shipping
- next day delivery
- personalized recommendations
These innovations are now world-renowned. Online stores are always trying to emulate Amazon's optimum customer experience. Yet these developments do not come by chance - they are the result of continuous tests and measures based on reliable data.
It's inevitable that you make changes to your ecommerce website at some point. Whether it's to your wording, your SEO tactics, or your checkout process. If you want to make the right changes and convert more of your existing traffic, A/B testing is the best way to go. This way, you can gain meaningful insights and get your store on the right track.
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How does A/B testing work?
Basically, two types of A/B tests can be distinguished: customer-side and server-side.
Customer sided A/B testing
Server sided A/B testing
In server-side testing, your web server displays different variants of a site to the visitors and modifies them on the server before sending them to the visitors browser. No changes are made to the site in the browser.
For example, you can send one half of your visitors to variant A and the other half to variant B. Then you analyze the performance of each page variant to determine whether Variant A or Variant B is more effective with respect to specific goals. These goals can be quite different, such as signing up for an email newsletter, clicking on a link, or making a purchase.
You can also test in the following ways:
A/B testing for iPhone or Android apps
A/B testing is a bit more complex for applications. That's because it's not possible to present two different versions once the app is downloaded and deployed to a smartphone. There are workarounds that allow you to update your app instantly. You can easily change your design and analyze the impact of that change directly.
Split tests or redirect tests
Split testing redirects your traffic to one or more different URLs. This can be an effective approach when you host new pages on your server.
Multivariate testing measures the impact of multiple changes on the same site. For example, you can change fonts, the color of your text, call-to-action texts, and many other elements.
Enough traffic is the key
To be sure that the results are correct and not due to measurement errors, a certain number of visitors must be reached. If this threshold is not reached, multivariate tests may be inaccurate. In the worst case, this will lead you to making changes that can harm your store.
If your website is not generating enough traffic, you should consider investing in paid advertising or SEO first to increase your traffic. Once you have reached the necessary traffic level, you can always run A/B tests to get the most out of your visitors store.
A/B testing with low traffic: Here's what you need to watch out for
However, increasing traffic to your store can be a lengthy endeavor. Especially if you focus on SEO , it can take several months before you notice any noticeable differences. So what do you do if you want to optimize your store with A/B tests despite low traffic?
The good thing is that you can also use this tool with relatively less store visitors. However, in order to optimize your site with little traffic through A/B testing, you should consider a few things.
Refrain from too extensive tests
The more aspects you test on a site, the more traffic is required in total for your results to be statistically significant. Instead, focus on simple A/B tests where you test a maximum of one website element.
Test your top pages
Avoid testing sections of your website that only have a few visitors. It's much better to test the sections of your store that are always used and seen everywhere. This includes website-wide tests, for example of the navigation bar, the announcement bar or the footer. This way, you can make ideal use of the existing traffic and achieve meaningful results in less time than if you were to test only one specific product page, for example.
Test changes with big impacts
Sometimes small changes have a big impact on the conversion rate (CR for short). More likely, however, testing a large adjustment will have a more dramatic effect. Focus your testing on the sections of your website that are important to visitors. Then, in all likelihood, you will have a greater impact on the CR than if you test very small changes on niche sites.
Choose goals wisely
Maybe your main goal is to increase the conversion rate or the number of newsletter sign ups. But with low website traffic, it can take an extremely long time to collect enough conversions to validate the results.
Alternatively, you can take a step back in the funnel and compare add-to-carts or click-through rates, for example. This way, you can more quickly generate the amount of data you need to reach statistical significance.
You should still be patient, but if you follow these basic rules, you can run effective A/B tests on your shop's sites even with low traffic.
Which shop elements should you test?
Now we've talked plenty about what A/B testing is, how it works, and how even with low traffic you can use A/B testing for optimization.
But what exactly can we optimize with the help of A/B tests?
Titles and headings
Font, text color, and content are the essential components of titles and headings. You can change these to see how your website visitors responds to different visuals and varied appeals. For example, you could test whether warm colors work better than cool ones, or modern fonts against serif fonts. Another option is to try a personal, humorous approach versus a matter-of-fact, direct one.
Call-to-actions are an essential part of any store. The specific call-to-action usually gives the final "push" your visitors need to sign up for a newsletter, watch your video or add a product to the shopping cart. Testing different call-to-action texts can significantly increase your conversion rate in the long run.
As we all know, a picture is worth 1,000 words, which is why high-quality product images are a core element in any store. But you can test what kind of images work best for you: Images that use your products, images that feature real people. Or very minimalistic: a photo of the product on a light background.
It can make sense to create extra landing pages for certain promotions, specials or products. You can run an A/B test these to see which layout, design, page structure and texts are most popular.
Testing the prices of your products is a bold move. However, it can provide important insights for you, as price is one of the key factors that influence the purchase decision. You need to be careful when testing prices to not alienate your community and customers if it becomes known that you sell the same products at different prices. To avoid this, you can create offers that are almost identical, but differ slightly in benefits, accessories and service.
Clarity and clarity are extremely important in forms. You can change the title of a field, remove irrelevant fields, swap the placement of individual fields or customize the design.
Navigation is the heart of your store. As the name suggests, it is used by to navigate through your website and find their way around. With A/B tests, you can ensure that your navigation is structured sensibly and can be used intuitively. This is how you lay the foundation for a positive user experience.
Conclusion - This is why you need A/B testing in your store
Let's recap: You now know what A/B tests are and why they are important for online store owners. You have also learned about the variety of A/B tests, that sufficient traffic is crucial and how you can benefit from A/B tests even as a "low-traffic shop".
Last but not least, we discussed the many different website elements you can test in your shop. Be it the navigation, call-to-action texts or your store images: With A/B testing, you can identify unused potential in your shop and exploit it like never before.