So your brand is selling online and on mobile -- after all, who isn't? -- and it’s been working... but you know it could be better. Or perhaps it’s not doing so well at all, and you need to figure out where the problem lies. How do you go about doing that? 

There are a few popular ways to identify the fatal flaws that drive people away after you've worked so hard to drive them in.

Some marketers go with their gut instinct or subjective preferences (“I like sites with navigation on the left, not along the top!”). Others trust their creative teams to overhaul or beautify their sites for superficial appeal (“This button should be red, not green!”). But the smart ones engage in testing to identify what’s really responsible for factors such as bounces, abandonment and one-time-only customers, in order to address those things directly.

Basically, before you redesign, optimize, personalize, enhance or otherwise improve your site, you should know what the various elements and aspects of your online presence are and how to make adjustments that will affect consumer interactions and behaviors in a positive way.

Whereas just five years ago website and mobile testing were considered a specialist tool or optional tactic, now A/B and multivariate testing (MVT) are a crucial part of every marketers’ toolbox. And here’s why you can no longer afford to ignore it.

1. It Helps You Make Better, Data-Driveny Decisions

No matter how you slice it, testing results will give you highly detailed insight into consumer behaviors, interactions, likes and dislikes. If you’re going to keep them coming, and coming back, you will need a deeper understanding of how the site variables interact to influence conversion rates.

Multivariate testing allows you to get the nitty-gritty on multiple page elements at the same time, breaking each of them down into specific components. Not to mention how they interact with each other along the path-to-purchase. Simply put, it’s like running many individual A/B tests all at once -- something the human brain just can’t do.

2. It’s Cost Effective

A/B and multivariate testing aren't just for creative and/or contextual site elements; they’re also valuable when it comes to comparing offer combinations -- purchase incentives, trial periods, multiple price points, premiums or gifts.

Marketers can speedily determine how effective these offers can be without the excessive time and/or financial costs of alternate methods such as focus groups or phone surveys. Brands who decide to make content, offer and design decisions without testing run the risk of throwing money away.

3. It’s Efficient

Site testing is a sound use of both your time and web traffic efforts. Questions about content value can be answered incredibly quickly due to the large numbers of variables being tested simultaneously. This way, you can see what the best version of a particular site experience is and also grasp why that version is superior. Multivariate testing is particularly flexible, exposing a wider range of behavioral attributes from obvious content modifications to subtle formatting factors.

4. It Gives your Site Plan a Clear Road Map


Most e-commerce sites are complex -- as are the analytics that support them. A good testing program starts with a road map to identify the problem areas, the areas the brand wants to test and the areas the brand needs to test.

From here, a clear road map that aligns with brand goals, consumer priorities and any seasonal fluctuations can be set. Having a clear path and plan helps the website evolve at the correct pace, without alienating consumers.

5. It Helps You Focus on Priorities

In a similar vein, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in specific details when embarking on a testing campaign, losing sight of the bigger picture. Stay focused on what’s important to you: are you seeking revenue from certain types of consumer traffic? Do you want more specific, fine-tuned customer insights and feedback? Thinking of restructuring the navigation or design of the site? Whatever your business goals are, keep them firmly in mind -- and prioritize your test results accordingly.

It’s time for every brand, every site, every marketer to move beyond the knee-jerk site overhauls and non-strategic redesigns, avoid gut instinct and end up with an e-commerce site that continuously improves over the course of time as it stays fresh and relevant to both new and returning visitors.Testing will help your site evolve towards a better customer experience, increased conversion rates and a better bottom line.

Image courtesy of ollirg (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Mark's thoughts on building the better website? Read 4 Website Areas to Optimize for Smooth Sailing Experiences