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Others Online Testing May Be Worthless

July 27, 2009 – 9:57 am

The question: Will promoting individual products through an email or homepage convert better if you link directly to those products or to a category of products?
The pre-test answer: Based on everything I have read, the answer is a no brainer.  Conversions and sales to the individual products will far exceed having customers click around looking for products.
The post-test answer: The category landing page won, but why? It also brought up another question, the email and homepage results were very different. What the heck is going on?

The Test:
The company was promoting 6 different products. All 6 products were pictured and on the right hand side,  Each product showed the original price, normal sale price, and closeout price. Sale ended in seven days and were in limited quantities.

A- The six individual product images linked directly to each of the products.  About a quarter of the image, you could go to all products in this category
B- Same exact image, but the entire image linked to the category, total of 6 pages of products, rather than the individual products listed on the image.

This was sent to the email list of 100% opt-in customers and was on our home page.  Everything we set up so that half of our customers that clicked thru the email would randomly receive A and the other half B.  The home page test was similar, half to A (with individual links) half to B (category).

The results:
Email

Almost exactly the same number of orders and conversion rates. B actually had two more orders, but the average order size was about 30% higher leading to a much larger increase in revenue.  Now this was suprising to me.  If someone took bets, I would have bet on A blowing B out of the water, it just makes sense to me. If someone see’s a product and they are interested in it, send them directly to the product.

Hompage
These results are very different.  Much more of a clear winner.  B had 15% more orders and about 10% more revenue.  The only area that was lower was average order size. “A” had a 5% higher average order size.

These results brought up more questions. Besides, why did going to the category page perform better, my question is why are the results so different between the email and homepage if it was the same test?

My Answer and what I have learned: I will put this in bullet format to make it easier to read.

1. There are too many variables to read any website studies and think you can apply it to your own site.  Who are your customers, what is the sale all about, is the sale really a sale (did you check your competition), are these products really in demand?
2. The products we were offering were way below our competitors. I feel this is the reason B performed better.  Once the B people clicked and went to the category page, they not only saw the product they clicked on, but 100’s of other products priced way below the competition.  This combined with the “only a few days and limited quantities” messaging triggered more sales.
3. Why did the home page perform differently? My assumption is different customers performed different search behavior.  I know, I know you think I am crazy, but hear me out. The email list is of previous customers that opted in to the list. They have been to the site before, know there way around and trust us.  Fifty percent of the people that come directly to the home page through search, paid search, or other means are new to the site.  They may have come to our site from a much broader term through natural search and are in initial shopping mode.  They are unfamiliar with our site.  They are unfamiliar with us.  All of these lead to more clicking and looking around.  The new customers that clicked on A, went right to the product. Not be familiar with the site, they had no idea about all of the other bargain products and what our site has to offer.  The others that went to the category landing page, we gave the opportunity to see the entire category and products on sale.  This helped with letting them know what we have, showed them we were a large site offering multiple manufacturers (established trust), and our great pricing on the 100’s of products in that category.

To conclude:
Run your own A/B tests. It is the only way to really evaluate what works and what doesn’t work based on your product prices, product availability, the marketing message, and your customers.  There are very few absolutes when it comes to online marketing.

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  1. 29 Responses to “Others Online Testing May Be Worthless”

  2. “There are too many variables to read any website studies and think you can apply it to your own site.”

    I agree. Each site is different and thus require unique tests.

    By Dan London on Jul 27, 2009

  3. Hi there,
    Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.
    Thank you
    Elcorin

    By Elcorin on Jul 28, 2009

  4. what a lengthy and in depth article but full of useful information

    By anon on Aug 1, 2009

  5. Great article . Will definitely copy it to my website.

    By Necklaces on Aug 2, 2009

  6. Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader.

    By John on Aug 3, 2009

  7. I do know this was a very interesting post thanks for writing it!

    By babafisa on Aug 3, 2009

  8. Thank you very much for that great article

    By hotspotshield on Aug 3, 2009

  9. Valuable thoughts and advices. I read your topic with great interest.

    By Peter on Aug 9, 2009

  10. Interesting and informative. But will you write about this one more?

    By Kouba on Aug 10, 2009

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