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How to create more effective campaigns with A/B testing

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on May 8, 2018

Simple experiments can help optimize your content for better results

If you’ve been working on digital marketing strategies for your dealership, you’ve probably encountered the term ‘A/B testing’ before. A/B testing is a powerful technique which can help hone your marketing campaigns and make them as effective as possible. Without getting too technical, this article will give you a solid primer on what it is, how to set it up, and what online tools you can use in your A/B testing analysis.

A/B testing in a nutshell

A/B testing is based on the clinical drug trial technique called “split testing.” It’s when you create two different versions of something and send each of them to two different groups. Only one small change makes the difference between the two versions, and it could be almost anything. For example it could be a different color, or different phrasing in a subject line, or a different car photo on your homepage. The results of the test allow you to figure out ways to fine tune your sales and marketing campaigns.

What to test in an A/B testing plan

You can run an A/B test on almost any aspect of your company’s website and marketing materials. You should, of course, focus on the elements that can affect customer buying decisions. Here’s a list of some of the most commonly tested variables.

  • Web page copy
  • Colour scheme
  • Web page layout
  • Call to action text
  • Search results
  • Special promotions
  • Price scheme
  • Website navigation

It’s also possible to test multiple variables in an A/B test. For example, you might want to test different call to action text, page layouts, or car financing options. This is called multivariate testing. It should be done only after you’ve done a great deal of A/B testing and have gained a lot of web traffic.

You can also test several different versions of something where you change only one variable, in which case you could also have versions C, D, E, and so forth. In this case it’s referred to as A/B/n testing, but the procedure is the same.

How to develop an A/B testing plan

A/B testing should be carried out over a long enough period of time that you can trust your results are statistically significant. If you run the test too long, or not long enough, you could get skewed results. Run one A/B test at a time, and let them run for several weeks to obtain enough data.

That being said, developing an A/B testing plan can be broken down into four key steps.

  • Determine what variable to test – You need to zero in on problem areas so you can begin to determine ways to improve your business through A/B testing. Google Analytics is an excellent tool for figuring this out, as it is free and provides more than enough insight into your website’s weak spots. For example, you could use it to examine the layout of your listings page, or the text in your menu headings.
  • Assign goals – Once you know what the weakest links are in your website, it’s best to start with them because improvements there could produce the biggest results. For example, you could aim to increase the amount of time visitors spend on your listings page, or you could want more people to submit their emails to your mailing list.
  • State your hypothesis – Just like a science experiment has a hypothesis describing the expected or desired outcome, so too must your A/B test. Your hypothesis should state that by changing certain elements, you can improve specific results. A hypothesis could be, “by using red instead green for the accept button, more people will submit their emails to receive our promo offer.”
  • Create variations – Now that you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it’s time to create a B version to run against the original version. You may even want to create more than one variation if you want to test various possibilities. For example, if you have a photo of a car on your homepage, your B version could have a photo of a Truck or an SUV.

Using A/B testing tools

Once you’ve determined what variable to test and have a hypothesis nailed down, it’s time to start the experiment. To do this, you’ll need to take advantage of some of the A/B testing tools available online. These tools provide a visual editor that allows you to create your variations, and they also provide methods for running the test, collecting the data, and gleaning insights from the numbers.

  • Google Analytics – Free and easy to use, Google Analytics is a powerful tool for developing and conducting A/B tests. The “Content Experiments” feature allows you to conduct tests on web page variants. The “Goals” feature allows you to track your targets.
  • Optimizely – Optimizely is often mentioned in lists of the best A/B testing tools, and for good reason. It’s cheap, provides a visual interface, and includes powerful testing software which can run split, multivariate, and mobile testing options. Optimizely has a good reputation for being easy to pick up.
  • KISSmetrics – This one sits at the premium end of the scale. With a cost of $150 per month, and a one-year commitment, it’s quite the investment if you’re a beginner. KISSmetrics gives you insight into the entire buyer’s journey, revealing things you might not have noticed with less in-depth tools.

These are just a handful of the tools available out there, but this gives you a good primer. A/B testing is an ongoing process. You should constantly be testing, analyzing, and implementing new changes to improve your marketing and online presence. Use this guide as a starting point to gain greater insights into what works and what doesn’t for your target market, so you can make your digital marketing as effective as possible.

Topics: A/B testing, Marketing tips