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What is A/B testing and how to use it to reach your website’s goal

Updated: Nov 16, 2021


A/B testing with image colors on website

Did you know that the first product sold online was a Sting CD? That was back in 1994, by an eCommerce site called NetMarket, run out of New Hampshire.


Another fun fact: Amazon didn’t send out their first book order until 1995.


Clearly, NetMarket was a pioneer in web commerce. And P.S: The company still exists!



NetMarket homepage


In the 90s and early 2000s, business websites, particularly those for small businesses, were merely another means of advertising.


They could list their products and services, their location, and their contact information. Maybe they had an email webform for potential customers to reach out. But the goal was to drive visits to their brick and mortar stores.


Sure, they were using their websites to build awareness, but that was really about it.


Today, billions of transactions and conversions happen online every day.


Business websites have evolved from merely informational to end-to-end eCommerce engines. They act as a storefront, inventory, and checkout all in one, especially if they’re a business with no brick-and-mortar location to begin with.


And if you’re creating a website for your clients (or even for yourself), they are a major part of your business model. These sites are what pulls people in and guides them through the marketing funnel.


You know that accelerating the journey from “just browsing” to “new customer” is essential to the bottom line of your clients’ businesses - but how can you achieve impactful results quickly on a website?


A/B testing is a low-risk, high-reward growth strategy for helping you find quick wins that boost revenue and improve the experience customers have with your clients’ brand.


Unfortunately, a lot of people get overwhelmed by the time commitment, or the amount of A/B testing tools that are available on the market. And some just don’t know where to start.


But there are some really lightweight options out there that require minimal commitment to see results, and that scale with you as you and your clients grow (more on that later). As for not knowing where to start - this post has you covered!



What elements should you be testing on your website


Before we dive into A/B testing techniques, it’s important to provide context on what you should be testing and why you’re doing it in the first place.


Whether your aim is increased sales, email signups, or pageviews, your A/B testing goals all fall under one larger concept: conversion rate optimization (CRO).


All of those visitors you convince to buy, sign up, or download are doing the same thing: They’re converting. Your goal with an A/B test is to get them to convert more often.


“CRO” may sound like an intimidating term, but increasing your conversion rate is simply a matter of:


  1. Paying attention to the experience visitors are having on-site (through numerical data from Google Analytics or visualized data from a tool like Crazy Egg).

  2. Making changes that you think will improve their path to hitting your client’s stated business goals.

  3. Monitoring the results of those changes (both steps 2 and 3 can be accomplished via an A/B testing tool).


If you’re new to the concept of CRO, this video will give you some background and inspiration for getting started.


To run a successful A/B test, you can’t skip Step One. You need a question, an answer based on real customer behavior, and a hypothesis.


Here are some examples of questions you might have about the website in question:


  • Are the CTAs (Calls-to-Action) placed above the fold?

  • Are the products placed in order of their popularity with customers?

  • Are people clicking on elements (like a “free quote” or “free shipping” banner) that aren’t linked to anything?

  • Are people actually using the hamburger menu? How about the search bar?

  • Is there a disconnect between ad campaigns and landing pages?

  • Are website visitors overwhelmed by too many primary and secondary CTAs?

  • Has a new chat widget covered up a key CTA offer?

  • Are people turned off by the email capture popups?

  • Are shoppers ignoring certain collections or categories?


Next, you’ll want to observe how people are interacting with the website to come up with an answer to these questions. There are several tools that are easy to interpret that can point you in the right direction:


Heatmap: