What Is A/B Testing?
Before we look at some of the methods and strategies recommended by Gajan, let’s address the elephant in the room: What is A/B testing?
In simple terms, it is a form of website/product/service testing that compares one thing to another.
For example, let’s imagine that you’re selling an eBook with some exercises, diets, and other basic information. Your ultimate goal is to get newsletter sign-ups so you can pitch supplement offers and dietary/exercise tips.
You create a landing page with a contact form. The user just needs to enter their name, email address, and phone number, and they will receive a free copy of the eBook.
Without A/B testing, you might follow a few expert tips regarding text/image/layout optimization and hope for the best.
With A/B testing, you actually have the means to discover exactly what works best and can tweak things accordingly.
The idea is that you create two different landing pages and ensure they are seen by the same number of people.
For instance, one landing page may contain a big blue button with the words, “Get Your Free eBook” while the other contains a big yellow button with the words, “Access Now”.
If you send 10,000 visitors to each of these pages, you may get a 5% conversion rate for the first option and a 7% conversion rate for the second.
From there, you know that the yellow button works best, and that becomes your “A” test. The next step might be to change the wording from “Access Now” to “Download Now” or the color from yellow to red.
Every time you make a change, you compare the two and stick with the one that gives you the best results.
These changes can be big or small and they can include many different elements.
What follows is a list of possible changes to make during your A/B testing. They apply to product pages, landing pages, and any other page you’re directing visitors to.
The Uncertainty Principle
The uncertainty principle is a concept I have talked about numerous times, including in a discussion about customer reviews and testimonials.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment and imagine they are visiting your website for the first time.
It’s easy to assume that they already know everything about you. After all, they probably watched a Facebook Ad or clicked a Google Link. In truth, however, this is rarely the case.
When you enter a shop on the high street, you likely don’t know anything beyond their name, general industry, and whatever you’ve seen through the window.
It’s the same situation with an online visitor. But in a real shop, you can pick up the items. You can smell them, feel their weight, test their features, and if you’re stuck, you can even ask the owner or employee for assistance.
This is one of the main reasons why customer acquisition rates are much higher in brick-and-mortar retail, and if you want to succeed online, you need to replicate that retail experience.
Write FAQs, talk about the shipping charges and speed. Answer all customer questions, even if they seem obvious.
The great thing about A/B testing is that you’re not wasting your time or money. If you answer a blindingly obvious question that takes up valuable real estate and is completely unnecessary, your tests will tell you and you can delete it and try another.
Social proof is a way of showing your prospective customers that your products have been purchased, used, and liked.
Customers don’t want to feel like they are the only ones buying the product. More importantly, they want to know that someone like them has used it.
Some aspects of social proof include screenshots of Amazon reviews, embedded testimonials, and Instagram reviews.
Play around and see what works.
Everything from the placement of forms and buttons to the location of texts and images can dictate how successful your page will be.
Move things around, change the color, add/remove elements.
These things are easy to change and test. It won’t cost you anything and while you likely won’t experience any major changes, small improvements will compound over time.
Consumers are sensitive to perceived length but not actual length.
During our interview, Gajan showed an example of two different contact forms. Both were exactly the same length and requested the same information, but one was a single column and the other was split into two columns.
The first looked much shorter, even though it wasn’t, and as a result, it generated many more sign-ups.
These small psychological tricks are impossible to predict, but that’s what A/B testing is all about. The more tests you run and the more information you gather, the better you will be at predicting them.
Tips And Strategies For A/B Testing
If you’re an established entrepreneur or business owner, there’s a good chance you know what A/B testing is and may have already used some of the methods outlined in this guide.
But Gajan didn’t become one of the world’s foremost conversion experts by following regurgitated methods and techniques, so there’s still a lot to learn.
What follows is a list of the most important elements of A/B testing, including strategies, tips, and tools that will help you succeed.
What Should You Change?
Gajan called A/B testing a “superpower”, and he’s right, but only when it’s done right.
You can make big or small changes, but it’s best to keep the changes small so you know what works and what doesn’t.
If you change everything from the color and size to the placement of texts and images, you may see an increase in conversions, but from where? What makes that second page better than the first?
Maybe there were elements in the first that worked better than the second, but these were ultimately offset by bigger changes that had a more pronounced effect.
It’s like getting an eye test. Your optometrist won’t simply give you two pairs of lenses, ask which one you like best, and then write a prescription. They will run a series of tests that compare one lens to another, make minute changes each time, and ensure you get something that is perfect.
Create a landing page that contains all necessary elements, following basic tips on landing page development, conversion, growth hacking, and more.
Once you have those basics nailed down, you can make some gradual changes. Just like the optometrist, your goal is to take small steps that ultimately provide a huge benefit.
How Much Traffic Do You Need For A/B Testing?
You won’t learn much from a small sample size.
With a sample size of 10, for instance, there’s a good chance that no one will buy. Does that mean both landing pages are terrible? Of course not. And if the results are 1/10 and 2/10, that doesn’t mean the second one is twice as good.
Maybe you just got lucky.
The best scientific studies are conducted with thousands and even hundreds of thousands of participants. You need a large group of participants to offset the many variables that would otherwise interfere with your data.
1,000 is a good number, but if you can afford 10,000, go for it. It doesn’t matter if one has 9,000 and the other has 10,000. They don’t need to be exact, as you will be measuring percentages.
If you have 200 sign-ups from 9,000 and 220 from 10,000, for instance, you know that the pages have been tested sufficiently. You also know that the results are roughly the same (2.19% vs 2.22%). In such cases, you should still lean more toward the latter, but if you prefer the aesthetic of the former, that’s fine as well.
When the numbers are this small, it doesn’t really matter. Not only is the difference infinitesimal, but once you account for variables such as luck, more willing buyers, etc., it could swing either way.
How To Drive Traffic For A/B Testing
Facebook and Instagram ads are some of the best platforms for testing your landing pages.
Facebook allows you to run ads that don’t show on your Facebook timeline and you can duplicate these ads and change the content. In other words, the same video, image, or text ad can target the same groups of people with two different links.
It’s perfect for A/B testing.
Just target customers in your demographic, run both of the ads at the same time and focus on clicks. You can use Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, or landing page software like ClickFunnels to track your visitors and see what they’re doing.
One of the downsides of Facebook advertising is that it can be expensive to generate clicks, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
In such cases, you may be better off with Google Ads.
The great thing about Google Ads is that you can generate targeted clicks for less than $0.05 and sometimes as little as $0.02. These clicks will come from regions and keywords that you select, and if you use the Search and Display network, it can process thousands of clicks every day.
The Google network is vast, so it can generate traffic for every niche. If you’re paying just $0.02, you’ll pay just $20 for 1,000 clicks. On a budget of less than $200, you can run a number of tests and significantly improve your conversion rates.
For more information on Google Ads, including how Shopping Ads work and how to optimize the platform for increased conversions, take a look at my guide to Google Ads with Isaac Rudansky.
What Should You Test First?
If you’re selling multiple products/services and have a big budget and team behind you, it doesn’t really matter what you focus on first. However, it’s still best to focus on the biggest products/services and the most important pages.
Get those out of the way first and then descend the chain of priority.
When you’re operating with limited resources, it’s a little trickier.
In such cases, you’ll want to prioritize the biggest pages and limit your sample sizes to as few visitors as possible.
How many you need will depend on your average conversion rates. If those rates are just 0.01%, it’s going to be difficult to use groups of less than 10,000. If they are 1% or more, you can get away with just 1,000.
Tools To Help With A/B Testing
A few simple programs can help you with A/B testing, offering everything from analytics to automation and more. A few of these were mentioned by Gajan during our discussion, and all of them are commonly used to increase conversions following A/B testing.
- Google Analytics and Google Optimize: These free tools are essential when conducting A/B testing. They offer experimentation and analysis and are fairly easy to use. In fact, if you have any experience running or owning websites, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Google Analytics, so you’ll have a head start.
- Crazy Egg: A simple solution that promises to “make your website better in an instant”. Crazy Egg offers a plethora of optimization and A/B testing solutions. It is used by over 300,000 websites and while it is a premium service, it also has a free 30-day trial.
- Leadformly: An A/B testing tool that focuses on web forms, making it an ideal choice if your goal is to increase newsletter sign-ups or customer queries. Prices begin at less than $40 per month and there is a free trial available.
- Zoho PageSense: A relatively affordable option that begins at less than $20 a month. Zoho PageSense is ideal for smaller websites and combines elements of optimization and personalization.
- Optimizely: A super-premium product with advanced optimization features, including Optimizely Web. You’ll need to contact them for a quote, and while prices vary, you can generally expect to be quoted several thousand dollars a year. It’s definitely not cheap!
A/B Testing Offline
A/B Testing is not limited to websites.
According to Gajan, magazines have been testing for half a century, using different ads and sending one batch to the West Coast and the other to the East Coast.
Gajan also talked about restaurants.
If the question is, “How can I get more customers to order desserts?” two batches of menus should be printed, one with a small image and lots of text, the other with a big image and very little text. These should be split between different tables throughout the week, before results are calculated.
Once you have a clear winner, you can make some further tweaks, such as changing the picture or even the types of desserts. It’s an ongoing process and one that will gradually increase your efficiency and improve your bottom line.
A/B testing is adaptable and works across many different industries.
Focus On The “Almost” Consumers
Gajan states that there are three types of customers and if you want to succeed, you need to focus on just one of them.
If we use a Ferrari dealership as an example, the first type are the window shoppers and test drivers. They are the ones who wear their best clothes, put on their best smiles, and spend an evening browsing cars that they have no intention of buying.
Stop them on the way out and ask them why they didn’t buy, and they’ll lie to you. They don’t want to admit that they were never going to buy, and will say something like, “I don’t like the color” or “the model I was looking for isn’t here”.
If you were to listen to them, you could find yourself making a lot of costly changes just to appeal to a subset who have absolutely no interest in your products.
The second type are the ones who are loyal to your brand. They are the Ferrari superfans in this analogy. They buy the latest cars, have a collection of scale models, obsess over Ferrari in F1, and even have the jacket to match.
Although this group is far more valuable, they can be just as problematic from a marketing standpoint. If you approach them after they leave your store, they’ll be more likely to complete a survey and answer questions, but those answers probably won’t help you.
Marketers love this group because they are so willing and full of praise, but that praise won’t get you anywhere. They may answer questions like, “Why didn’t you buy today?” with “because I already have that product” or “I am planning to buy next week”. While questions like, “Is there anything you don’t like about our store?” are likely to be met with a cheerful and dismissive shake of the head.
The final group are the ones in the middle, the “almost” people, the ones who got close but didn’t commit.
Gajan refers to these as the bubble.
They constitute the majority of your customers. They are more likely to be honest with you, will buy if the experience is right, and don’t allow blind loyalty to get in the way.
Consumers in the bubble will tell you the things you need to hear and highlight the issues you didn’t know were there.
And trust me, those problems will exist, because they exist for every startup and every small business. It doesn’t matter how many audits you have done and how many friends or family members you have asked, these problems will be there.
Fairly recently, a friend of mine began his own small business. He didn’t have a lot of money and so his beta testing consisted of giving friends a hefty discount and encouraging them to use the site.
A great idea for a small business, but a flawed one.
Those friends did notice issues, but they were reluctant to report them. They knew how much time and effort he had invested and didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
As a business owner, it’s hard to think like a customer, and it’s nearly impossible to test all aspects of your site from multiple demographics, regions, and platforms.
There will be problems that you didn’t know about or suspect could be an issue because if you did know about them and suspect them, you would have fixed them.
Gajan used an example of a company he worked for, one run by engineers with the goal of selling a software product that worked through web browsers.
When they asked people why they didn’t commit to a sale, roughly 10% of consumers in the bubble replied that they didn’t know if the software would work on a Mac.
It was an issue the company never thought to address, because whether you use a Mac or PC is completely irrelevant to something that works in a browser, but it was clearly something that made prospective customers think twice.
Gajan and his team added “Mac Compatible” and “PC Compatible” logos, tested pages with these logos and without, and found a significant conversion increase in the former.
As Gajan noted, it didn’t make sense at the time and there was even a degree of embarrassment about placing these logos.
It’s like adding a “Vegan” or “Gluten-Free” logo to a bottle of water. It’s something you don’t think about. But it’s worth remembering that not all of your customers have the same knowledge as you, and many are so used to seeing these labels that they won’t buy if they’re not there.
As software engineers, it was impossible for the owners of that site to put themselves in the mindset of those confused customers.
The only way to get there was to speak directly with those customers and run those tests, and that’s why problem-solving and A/B testing is so important.
Practicality Over Aesthetics
Every designer wants to create an eye-catching website they can display on their portfolio and show off to their friends and future employers. But while an attractive site is always a bonus, it’s rarely a necessity.
A website is not a work of art. It should place function before aesthetics, and not the other way around.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your site should contain little more than endless blocks of SEO-optimized text and massive CTAs. You have to find the right balance.
Just because something looks great and is unique, doesn’t mean you should use it. Ultimately, unless you’re a design agency, a customer won’t care how fancy your site is.
And if they have to traverse through introduction videos, slideshows, and clickable elements just to understand who you are and what you sell, they’ll get frustrated and leave.
Ask Your Customer Support Team
Many marketing teams don’t speak with customer services. There is a divide between the two, but in business, one hand washes the other.
If you speak with your customer service team, whether it’s a call center or a remote team that manages Live Chat, you’ll discover that they receive the same old questions.
In many cases, they will have created a list of form responses to deal with these repetitive questions. By connecting with your support team, you can answer these questions on your product pages and in your FAQ.
This harks back to what I said earlier about the uncertainty principle, and how important it is to answer every unasked question that your customers have.
Of course, sometimes the questions will keep coming regardless.
You can place big bold letters declaring that you “only accept only Visa and Mastercard” and you’ll still get a barrage of queries asking if you accept PayPal.
It’s not about eradicating these queries entirely, it’s about reducing them significantly.
If you get 100 phone calls a week inquiring about payment methods, a few carefully placed logos and FAQs may reduce this to 10 emails. On the surface, it looks like you’ve saved your support team from dealing with 90 pointless phone calls and potentially converted those queries into sales.
In reality, you could have boosted your sales by hundreds, if not thousands. For every 1 person that complains about an issue, there could be dozens or even hundreds that have the same issue but don’t complain.
I’ve seen situations where entire payment systems have glitched, blocking all orders, and turning 50 daily sales into 0, yet only 2 or 3 customers have actually contacted the company and highlighted the issue.
Ask The Right Questions
To get the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is from business owners who think that leading statements like, “If you loved our product, please let us know with a positive review” will increase their ratio of good reviews.
In actuality, it’s more likely to frustrate customers and deter them from offering their opinions.
You’re not explicitly telling them what to do, but they can read between the lines and understand that you’re just looking for baseless praise and don’t really care about their opinions.
There are two takeaways to consider here.
Firstly, users are more likely to offer their opinions if you use open-ended queries such as, “Please let us know what you think”.
Secondly, negative comments are nothing to worry about, as they highlight potential issues in your business.
Think about the following two comments:
“I loved the service. Everything was perfect!”
“I had an issue with Frank from customer support. He was very rude, and I wouldn’t buy again because of him”.
Companies are always happy to receive the former and may dismiss the latter, but you’re not a child getting their colored-scribbles pinned to the fridge. You are a professional company that needs criticism to grow.
There are two effective ways to get customer feedback.
The first is to use a multiple-choice query. Customers are more likely to click a button than they are to write in a box. What’s more, it is much easier to collect data from these forms.
For instance, you could ask a question like, “Did you experience any problems today?” followed by a “Yes/No” option. This can be followed by a series of options, such as “Website/Technical issues” and then a message box.
If they make it through two checkboxes, the odds of them writing in that final box increases significantly. If they don’t commit to doing that, you still have the previous data from those checked boxes.
The second way to collect information is to use an open-ended question like:
“Was there any particular reason that you choose not to order from us today?”
As noted by Gajan, this will generate some unusual and helpful responses. Most consumers will ignore it, but the ones that do respond could provide some very advantageous responses.
In fact, this is how they discovered the issue regarding Mac Compatibility that I highlighted above.
Tips For Conversion Rate Optimization
The ultimate goal of A/B testing is to improve conversions. The higher your conversions are, the less money you spend and the higher your profits will be.
It’s as simple as that, and every minor increase could have a massive impact.
For instance, let’s say that you’re able to increase your conversion rate by 2% after extensive and time-consuming A/B testing.
It might seem like a pointless and relatively fruitless endeavor. After all, who cares about 2%, especially when you are operating on a relatively small scale?
But if you get just 50 visitors a day, that’s 7 extra conversions a week or 365 a year. If those conversions are earning you $10 each, that’s an additional $3.650 in your bank.
For a small business, that’s a massive difference. And that’s just the start, as A/B testing is an evolving strategy that constantly finds improvements and edges that conversion rate ever higher.
It’s not the only tool at your disposal, either. You should also consider all of the following tips:
Add A Pop-Up
Pop-ups may seem a little outdated—a surefire way to frustrate your customers. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do them.
Generally, visitors only get frustrated when multiple pop-ups appear or when those pop-ups start playing videos, hide the “close” button, and otherwise try to force certain actions on them.
If it’s an inconspicuous little pop-up that offers a freebie in exchange for an email address or action, it’s perfectly acceptable.
You can use a pop-up to offer a discount or free eBook in exchange for an email address. Alternatively, use it to announce a discount that is only available if they purchase within the next few hours or days.
Add Live Chat
Many small businesses don’t have the resources to run phone lines. It’s understandable and many consumers have come to accept that. Emails and contact forms often suffice, but Live Chat facilities can help as well.
Not only will they help to eradicate some of that uncertainty, but you can start collecting customer queries and use these to improve your conversions.
Offer A Money-Back Guarantee
Money-back guarantees are common these days and are used on most products.
Many small businesses avoid them for fear that customers will exploit them, but more often than not, only a very small percentage of customers will actually use them. However, a greater number of customers will be convinced to make a purchase if they see a guarantee in place.
It’s a win-win, and if used properly, the profits you gain by increasing your conversions will offset any losses you have via returns.
Stick With One Goal
You should have one goal for every landing page. If you try to do too much, it stops being a landing page/funnel and turns into a complete website.
If your goal is to sell a product, talk about that product and direct users to buy. If it’s to build a newsletter, direct them to a form. Don’t combine these things, otherwise, you’ll risk confusing the customer and complicating your A/B testing.
Streamline Your Forms
The more options your forms have, the less likely your visitors are to complete them.
Stick with the bare essentials. If your goal is to build a newsletter, a name and an email address are all you need.
There’s no need for drop-down options, comments, postal addresses, and other superfluous info.
It has never been easier to track your customers, and once you have this data, there’s so much that you can do with it.
A few months ago, I spoke with Paul Butler, a master of strategic thinking, about the assumptions that business owners and entrepreneurs make. They assume that their business appeals to a certain demographic, or is failing/growing because of “XYZ”, but more often than not, they are wrong.
You don’t need to make these assumptions as you can use data to confirm or deny every suspicion. And the more you know about your customers, the easier it will be to appeal to them.
If you’re selling a low-calorie fruit drink, you might assume that your target market is middle-aged overweight women trying to lose weight. If you look at the data, you could discover that your product has equal appeal to fit, health-conscious twenty-somethings.
With this knowledge, you can move more into Instagram marketing and target those involved with health and fitness, as opposed to dieting and weight loss.
The $100,000 Question
Gajan Retnasaba has helped countless businesses to increase their conversions. He is a master of growth hacking, a king of conversions, and in this guide, and the video on which it is based, he has provided millions of dollars’ worth of insights.
However, as always, I ended my discussion with Gajan by asking him for his most valuable insight, the single piece of advice aimed at helping business owners to improve conversions using A/B testing.
He told me that the most important thing was to engage people in the bubble.
Ask them the right questions, collect their answers, analyze the data, and find solutions. Don’t hide from the problems, embrace them.
You won’t get anywhere by burying your head in the sand.
Ask them why they are leaving your site without making a purchase and don’t rest until you discover the answer.
Imagine that you own a book shop and 50% of all visitors add products to their cart, walk around for a bit, and then drop the cart and leave.
Would you just stand back and let it happen, forever curious and never certain? Or would you shine your nametag, wear your best smile, and put some of those management skills to the test?
Obviously, every self-respecting store owner would do the latter, and yet when it comes to e-commerce, many prefer to turn a blind eye.
More From This Week With Sabir
Gajan Retnasaba was the 17th guest I have welcomed onto This Week With Sabir. Since early June, when this show first began, I have covered many topics, provided millions of dollars in insights, and helped businesses of all sizes to grow.
With SEO-guru Neil Patel, I discussed the importance of SEO in the e-commerce sphere. With Nick Aldis, it was all about growing a personal brand as a wrestler, sports star, or other established personality.
And it’s not over yet! Stay tuned for more This Week With Sabir episodes, which you can catch live on YouTube courtesy of Restream. All recordings are also available right here, with extensive guides published within a few days of the episode going live.
About Our Guest: Gajan Retnasaba
Gajan is the founder of Spiralyze, a Conversion Rate Optimization & A/B testing company. Spiralyze runs experiments on clients web pages to convert more of their traffic into leads and sales. Spiralyze has generated over $7 billion in value for clients including Medallia, CrowdStrike, Okta, NBA, NFL, MLB, ViaSat, American Express Global Business Travel, Stitch Fix, Neil Patel, RStudio, Netflix, Lowes, Blue Nile, Pepsi, ServiceMax, and Dreamhost. Gajan is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Prior to Spiralyze, Gajan worked at Jones Day and McKinsey & Company. Visit Gajan on the Web at https://spiralyze.com.