Anyone can create a decent looking online store, populate it with some awesome products and hope for the best. But how do you know what elements of your site are working and what aren’t? Without decent analytics you could be unknowingly making changes to your store front which reduce sales instead of increasing them.
A/B Testing (or split testing) is the best way to make small, incremental changes to your site which improve conversion rates. It’s a method used by ecommerce giants such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy, not to mention Google themselves, and was even used by Obama’s digital team for his campaign website (Wired).
What is A/B Testing?
A/B testing is a way of seeing how different elements of an online store perform by comparing two comparing two slightly different versions of a web page, which you’ve probably guessed by now are what the A and B refer to.
Both versions are shown to similar visitors at the same time in order to judge which converts best. The conversion rate is how many site visitors actually take a desired action. It’s like having a real-time focus group and usually site visitors are completely unaware they might be seeing a different version of the web page.
A good A/B test will focus on one very specific goal or comparison per page, otherwise you may go to a lot of trouble testing your site without being able to make any concrete conclusions.
If you have any doubts, a good tip for making sure A/B testing software works properly is to run an A/A test with it first and make sure there are no discrepancies.
Why A/B Test?
A/B testing takes the guess work out of the design and layout of your online store. Rather than being a subjective, aesthetic decision, you can make changes based on solid data which are proven to increase sales and other conversion targets such as email sign-ups and social sharing.
Online, small details make a big difference when it comes to customer decisions. Being able to judge what works and what doesn’t work can result in a significant percentage increase in your store’s income and profits.
Now that we’re clear that A/B testing is important, let’s take a look at four of the most important elements of your ecommerce store for testing in this way.
1. Buy Now or Add to Cart Buttons
Let’s face it, the most important metric you can track on your site is whether people are buying your products or not. Of course, there are a number of steps which a customer might take before purchasing, such as searching through your catalog or reading reviews. What makes them click buy now or add to cart however is the crucial question.
There are a number of differences you could split test with a Buy Now button. The call to action or text itself can be changed. ‘Buy Now’, or ‘Add to Cart’ are the most common calls to action to persuade customers to click and purchase a product, but you could even experiment with something more unique such as ‘Make it Mine’ or ‘Purchase’. However be warned that deviating from the norm could be confusing for users.
Changing the size of the text could also increase conversions, with bigger text thought to be better (Hubspot). Other changes to the button itself could be its size, color (and contrast) or location on the page, for example proximity to pricing information.
2. Pricing Options
Pricing your products in a way which optimizes sales can be complicated. Of course you want to be competitive but you also want to make sure your profit margins are high enough to justify investing so much time, money and effort into your online store. You may also want to test time-limited offers such as seasonal discounts.
Again, you can run an A/B test on a small percentage of visitors to your site, e.g. 10% of all traffic, and see what the results are, without losing a significant proportion of sales or profits.
You might be surprised at the psychology involved in purchasing – sometimes a higher price can convince customers that your products are higher in value than the competition and therefore more desirable.
Again, as with Buy Now Buttons, the size and color of your pricing options can also make a difference, as can simply the price itself. Prices ending in 99 are much more common than round numbers for a good reason – it seems that most of us still subconsciously perceive them to be less expensive.
3. Checkout Process
Just because a customer has clicked the buy now button on your site, doesn’t mean it’s time to crack out the champagne, even if you’re selling diamond rings worth more than the average 3 bedroom home. Why? Because there’s still plenty of time for them to abandon ship, and a surprising amount of users do just that.
According to independent research firm the Baynard Institute, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is an incredible 67.35%. That average was based on 19 different studies containing statistics on e-commerce shopping cart abandonment.
Any aspect of your online store’s checkout process could cause this to happen. Examples include hidden costs such as shipping, insisting that customers login before they can purchase, lack of choice when it comes to payment type and much more.
Clearly, the less hoops for the customer to jump through the better. Try to think of your own experience when buying online and make a note of anything that has annoyed or irritated you. Logic aside, A/B testing can help to really hone your checkout process and reduce that abandonment rate.
After all, it would be a shame to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and lose that initially enthusiastic customer who was happy to click the buy now button in the first place.
4. Product Details
There are a large number of variations which you could test in terms of how your products appear on your site. Product descriptions, the size and appearance of product images, and even how many search results show up on your online store can significantly affect customer behavior. The trick is to focus on testing one at a time.
Hopefully, when you find a tweak that increases sales and conversions, you can then make that change site-wide, potentially leading to a large percentage increase in sales overall.
It’s important however not to rest on your laurels once you’ve run an A/B test. Customer preferences and behaviors change over time, so testing should be done on a regular basis.
In this article I’ve explained what A/B testing is, why it’s so important for ecommerce stores, and the four most important elements for ecommerce entrepreneurs to test.
I hope you can see the massive potential to increase revenues for your ecommerce business by basing your decisions on concrete data rather than guesswork. A/B testing is the way to ensure any changes you make to your online store lead to increased sales.
If you’ve already run split tests on your online store, let me know your results in the comments.