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Five surprising split testing tips

Split testing – the process of simultaneously testing multiple versions of your site – can provide some surprising results; sometimes changes don’t have the impact you expect.

We’ve compiled 5 tips to broaden your horizons and open your mind to some counter-intuitive split-tests which could seriously boost your profits.

1. Sometimes call-to-action buttons should stand out less

Amazon Add to basket image“Add to basket”, “Checkout”, “Sign up now”– Call to actions buttons are usually a high priority for any split testing plan. Our natural instinct is to make them bigger, brighter and ultimately to stand out as much as possible.

If you’re nodding along so far and thinking “too right”, follow this link to see that you can definitely go too far!

The image to the right is the current Amazon “Add to Basket” button. Amazon is a great starting point for inspiration: they split test a lot and they are hugely successful. Notice that their button is a fairly soft colour; it stands out but it’s easy on the eye.

In contrast, red buttons can stand out even more, but are often subconsciously associated with danger. Amazon’s soft colours draw your eye clearly, but at the same time reassure you that you’re taking a safe and reasonable course of action. No one likes an overly pushy salesman; sometimes a relaxing sales environment can pay dividends. Or at least that’s my interpretation – ultimately, this is the colour settled on by Amazon through split testing.

Recommendation: Split test de-emphasising elements of your calls to action

2. Sometimes higher prices increase sales

I recently met an owner of a construction firm who’d been experimenting with different charging structures. He’d first raised his prices by about 10%, expecting to see a small drop in work, offset by an increase in profits. To his surprise, both bookings and profits went up! What’s more, as he continued to raise his fees, bookings continued to rise.

We’re certainly not suggesting that you overcharge your customers, but your prices shape your perceived value – if you undervalue premium products or services, your customers may do the same. Split-testing prices is a great way of understanding the price elasticity of your products.

Harvey Nichols screen shot

Would Harvey Nichols sell more or less T shirts if they lowered their prices?

A word of warning: proceed with caution when split testing pricing options. Customers don’t like to feel that you’re overcharging them and it can even be legal complications. Strategies and legal implications are at least a full blog entry in their own right, so we’re not going to attempt to cover them in full right now. If you want to explore more, here are a couple of useful links:

Recommendation: Test higher prices as well as discounts

3. Sometimes social features hurt sales

Social networking is brilliant for ecommerce… or so everyone says. In many cases this is true, but don’t blindly assume that it will help your sales. For example a recent study by Empirica Research found that Men were 25% less likely to purchase Clearasil skin products when a Facebook Like Button or Tweet button was present. Sometimes just the presence of social buttons could reduce customers’ perceptions of privacy. If you use social buttons, do you know for certain that they help your sales?

Recommendation: If you use social buttons, and you sell products which could be considered private or personal, split test removing the buttons to increase perceived privacy.

4. Sometimes lower AdWords positions sell better

If you use AdWords to promote your site it seems a reasonable assumption, that if you pay more for a higher position, you’d get better results. However, in Google’s own words:

“on average, there is very little variation in conversion rates by position for the same ad. For example, for pages where 11 ads are shown the conversion rate varies by less than 5% across positions. In other words, an ad that had a 1.0% conversion rate in the best position, would have about a 0.95% conversion rate in the worst position, on average. Ads above the search results have a conversion rate within ±2% of right-hand side positions.”

In fact, for some clients we’ve seen click through rates go up as ad positions lower! The good news is that, if you don’t already, it’s easy to split test AdWords settings – just select Experiment from Advanced Settings and split test different bids.

Which of the right hand ad positions draw your attention most, bottom or second to bottom?

Recommendation: Split test lower positions for AdWords; don’t assume higher is better

5. Sometimes “Best Practice” isn’t best

Sometimes you need to be different, to stand out, to show that you truly understand your customers. Don’t blindly follow best practice. In fact, enjoy challenging it occasionally!

How can you become such a trend setting guru? Analyse, think, learn about your visitors and test, test, test!

If you’d like to learn more about split testing, and need expert help, read our ebook below for 8 questions you must ask to find, hire and get great results from CRO professionals.


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