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Importance of AB testing for your marketing campaign

Why Is A/B Testing So Important For Your Marketing Strategy?

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is a method used to compare two or more variables (variant A and variant B) to determine which one delivers more desirable results.

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is used in digital marketing to measure the effectiveness of a range of variables across websites, apps, email campaigns, and advertising. Marketers will conduct split testing to determine which factors encourage more conversions, engagement, sales, shares, etc.

In e-commerce websites, successful A/B testing can cause a 50% increase in the average revenue per unique visitor. With these potentially incredible results, perhaps it’s time your marketing team began split testing – but is it applicable to your business?

A/B testing can enlighten teams on a range of goals, as this simple process can be applied to all sorts of scenarios. For example, A/B tests are used by shops to determine the most effective price points, by politicians to better understand voters, and by web developers deploying new versions of applications – just to name a few.

Within the realm of digital marketing, however, split testing mainly focuses on:

  • Website optimisation
  • Improving email marketing campaigns
  • Optimising advertising methods (e.g., pop-ups or Google Ads)

With 77% of organisations running tests on sites, corporate websites are “the most common target of A/B testing.” Landing pages are the second most common, with 60% of organisations testing them with the split method.

More specifically, marketers use A/B tests to investigate the effectiveness of things like:

  • Headlines and subject lines
  • Copy
  • Images and graphics
  • Colour schemes
  • Pop-ups
  • CTAs
  • Discounts and special offers

You might compare the location of these variables, e.g., whether a CTA is placed at the end or middle of an email. With copy, you could compare the length of the text or its tone. Perhaps you’ll want to compare the timings of when emails are sent or compare how different audience segments engage with the same email design. Ultimately, there are endless ways you can test different features.

Whichever ones you choose, testing variables in marketing provides businesses with raw data, allowing them to make well-informed decisions with confidence.

First, though, you’ll have to learn how to do it effectively – and that’s what this article will explain. Plus, there’s the unfortunate fact that A/B testing marketing isn’t the answer for everything.

This article will explain the ways in which A/B testing can help your businesses – as well as the ways in which it can’t help.

And, finally, though there are some incredible rewards to gain, does your specific business really need it? Let’s dive in.

Why do businesses use A/B testing? The benefits:

If you execute your test correctly and plan for all eventualities, you can expect to see some amazing rewards.

Armed with the most accurate picture of what drives leads to convert, you’ll see increased sales, conversions, and engagement, as well as reduced bounce rates and abandoned carts.

So, if you weren’t convinced of the benefits of A/B testing, here’s what’s waiting for you:

Increase in conversions

A/B testing can help increase both conversions and sales volume. Since testing can improve user experience, optimise “clickability,” and refine lead nurturing processes, boosts in conversions and sales are inevitable.

Something like an improved user experience can provide a domino effect. An optimal experience means users have greater trust for your brand, high brand affinity, and keep coming back for more.

Reduced bounce rates

If you’re concerned about those areas of your website that have high drop-off rates or low conversion rates, you can identify improvements with A/B testing.

Measuring variables such as headlines, copy, design, and colour schemes can steer you in the right direction towards reducing bounce rates and keeping site visitors engaged for longer.

Increased user engagement

You can use A/B testing to improve engagement rates because its insights can show you what aspects of your content positively influence user engagement.

If you tested the colour of your CTA button, you might observe that red saw more clicks than green. A variable as small as this can have a huge impact.

Less abandoned carts

For those business owners within e-commerce, abandoned carts are one of those illusive pains – often recurring and unexplained. Split testing can help identify the required changes that will push site visitors over the finish line.

Improved content

When testing sales, ad, site, and email copy, the process involves sifting through ineffective language to ultimately produce the best copy possible. Writers and marketers can learn a lot from this process and become proficient in writing persuasive copy that engages and interests visitors – even beyond the testing period.

Less risk

When we talk about risk in digital marketing, we’re talking about the risk associated with wasting time, money, and resources on strategies that aren’t going to give you a return on your investment.

By conducting A/B testing on new site, ad, or email features, you can ensure your time, money, and resources are spent cautiously and confidently. With data supporting your decisions, you can make changes to your marketing strategy with less risk than if you were merely following your “gut.”

More straightforward decision making

Split testing transforms decision-making processes. With raw data backing up creative ideas, your next steps couldn’t be clearer.

What are the risks associated with A/B testing? The negatives:

Although 63% of organisations find A/B testing easy to implement, 7% said it’s a daunting process. Well, what about the other 30%?

This group don’t find it daunting or easy – but they do have some issues with conducting A/B testing.

There are some problems that can arise with running tests, but you can prepare for them. Here are the issues you can expect to face and how to cope:

It can only help with specific goals

A/B testing can help with: measurable KPIs such as clicks, bounces, shares, and abandoned carts.

A/B testing can’t help with: vague factors like website ease of use or visitor frustration.

These issues aren’t measurable, and testing something like bounce rate won’t explain why users are leaving. If it’s because your site is bugging, this is something you’ll have to figure out without the help of split tests.

It can use up time and resources

Compared with other forms of testing, split tests can take a while to set up. In some companies, there are endless long meetings to discuss the tests and agree on variables.

Even once these meetings are over, it’s time for the coders and designers to get to work – doubling their usual workload in pursuit of making two variants.

Once the tests are prepared, you must wait for the testing period to pass, which can be anywhere between 2 weeks to several months, depending on site and mailing list size.

You can work around this issue by only conducting split tests if you can actually spare the time and resources. Though frustrating, you mustn’t shorten the test period unnecessarily as this will damage the value of your results.

It won’t help all your problems

A/B testing can only take you so far. If your website or email campaign has core usability issues, no amount of tweaking images and subject lines will help. Furthermore, split testing isn’t likely to reveal these issues.

Though you might see variant A performing better than variant B, fixing core usability flaws (if they’re present) will skyrocket results much quicker.

Before you conduct split testing, ask a web developer to check your site for functionality issues. If you fix any present issues, wait a month to see if things improve. Once no usability issues are present, you can go ahead with a split test, knowing that the results will be based purely on the variables you’re testing.

When shouldn’t you use A/B testing?

A/B testing definitely isn’t the solution for everything. Here are some instances in which you wouldn’t conduct a split test:

If your sample size is too small

Sampling errors can occur when too-small groups are tested. To guarantee meaningful results, your sample size must be statistically significant. This is much easier for well-established companies, whilst start-ups may struggle if they have smaller mailing lists.

To figure out if your sample size will be statistically significant, you can use this free calculator.

If you don’t have enough time to dedicate to managing it

Running A/B tests is intensive on both time and resources. Not only are there multiple team members needed to set them up, but time must be spent analysing and implementing the data afterwards, too.

Although A/B tests can be straightforward, they can quickly use up a business’s energy if they’re overcomplicated.

As much as you might like to conduct a split test, make sure you can spare the funding, time, and resources. If you can’t, your test is likely to have holes, causing the results to be less valuable.

If taking action is low risk

If you’ve got a low-risk idea that’s likely to have a positive effect on your emails, adverts, or website, there’s no reason why you’d spend time and money testing it.

If time or resources are particularly scarce, it’s important that you don’t waste them on testing ideas that will almost certainly have a positive outcome.

How to conduct A/B testing

1. Create your hypothesis

Do you think that shortening your email subject lines will cause more recipients to read and engage with your emails?

Or do you think more site visitors will sign up to your mailing list if the pop-up is placed in the middle of the window?

Make sure your hypothesis is clear, simple, and focuses on one single variable.

2. Identify KPIs and goals

These are the metrics you’ll use to determine which variation performs best. You can choose things like product purchases, mailing list sign-ups, clicks, or shares.

3. Create your variations

Your web designer or developer will create two versions of whatever it is you’re testing (e.g., an email, advert, or mailing list pop-up). One is the “control”, and the second is the “challenger.” Your control must be the version that exists already.

You can use an A/B testing software for this (such as Google Optimize 360, AB Tasty, VWO, Adobe Target, Optimizely, or Oracle Maxymiser), but it’s not entirely necessary.

4. Set your sample groups

Your sample groups must be equal and selected randomly.

5. Set a length of time to run the test.

To ensure you have a large enough data set, your test must run for a sufficient length of time. Equally, if it runs for too long, you run the risk of bias.

Two weeks is the advised period to run a test, as this allows you to account for the usual spikes and dips that occur on different days of the week and at different times of the day.

6. Select a testing tool

There are loads of testing tools on the market to choose from, including Google Optimize 360, AB Tasty, VWO, Adobe Target, Optimizely, and Oracle Maxymiser.

7. Launch the advert or email

This is the time when you can sit back or focus on other tasks. Your test will run, measuring each interaction and collecting the data.

8. Look at your results

An A/B testing software will present the collected data so you can analyse the results of your test. Using a tool will be a big time saver as it automates your test calculations so you can stick to reading the results.

If there are statistically significant differences between your tested variables, these will be interesting areas to take note of. If your hypothesis has been confirmed – congratulations! You can now move forward with confidence.

Next, you can segment your audience for a deeper look at the data. Segment by traffic source, visitor type, or device type to understand how these areas responded to your two variants.

After this is done, you can repeatedly test different elements of your marketing, sales, and advertising.

Our top tips for conducting A/B testing

1. You don’t have to test everything

Focus on the things that can have the biggest impact on results, such as:

  • CTAs
  • Headlines and subject lines
  • Sales copy
  • Images and graphics
  • Audience segments
  • Discounts and special offers

2. Divide your segments equally

Divide traffic both equally and randomly, so there’s no bias. Test both variables at the same time, as the tests might not produce precise results if they’re conducted at different times.

3. Don’t test for too long or for not long enough

It’s recommended that you run tests for about two weeks. A test running for two days won’t produce thorough results, as its results won’t allow for the spikes and dips that naturally occur from Mondays to Sundays.

Businesses with smaller mailing lists may need to run their tests for longer than two weeks – it all depends on your traffic as this will dictate whether your results are statistically significant.

To figure out if your sample size will be statistically significant, you can use this free calculator.

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt that A/B testing allows businesses and marketers to refine their website, advert, and email designs. Although it’s extremely effective at measuring tangible factors, split testing won’t help you understand aspects of user experience such as frustrating elements and ease of use. You’d need to consult other channels for this.

If your website is functioning as it should, you have enough funding, and you’d like to revamp your marketing methods, split testing is definitely a viable route.

Just make sure you’re giving your tests enough time and resources to be reliable and valuable. If you do this correctly, you’ll have the magic ingredients to nurture leads into returning customers.

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