In case you haven’t learned it the hard way yet, e-commerce checkout optimization is a never-ending process. Or at least it should be if your aim is to keep improving the overall shopping experience for your customers.
With so many variables that come into play, though, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which changes can move the needle, and which can make things worse. Fortunately, here’s what e-commerce A/B testing can help out with.
Definition: What is e-commerce A/B testing?
In simple terms, A/B testing (AKA split testing) is a method of determining which version of the design, copy, or functionality resonates more with the target audience.
To do so, you have to split your audience to test several variations of a campaign and determine which performs better.
Benefits: Why should you A/B test?
Split testing is widely used across teams, departments, and industries, including e-commerce. And there are quite a few good reasons for it:
- A/B testing gives you more tangible insights into what your customers prefer. No more following (solely) your intuition when making changes to your e-commerce website
- A/B testing helps you validate the changes before relaunching or redesigning your e-commerce website, which tends to be costly and time-consuming
- When done right, A/B testing allows you to improve the shopping experience for your customers (which drives conversions and repeat purchases)
The only issue is that e-commerce A/B testing is not so easy to pull off. You might think that it's as simple as changing button colors, but there are plenty more things that you can A/B test.
Ideas: What can you A/B test?
Here are a few A/B testing ideas to get you started:
- Homepage sections & highlights
- Product images
- Product descriptions
- CTAs and their placement
- Checkout page structure (one-page vs multi-step, for example)
- Address form
- Delivery options
- Payment methods
You name it. To decide what to A/B test, make sure you have analytics in place and enough website traffic and/or potential customers to make the test viable.
No matter what you choose, though, don’t A/B test everything at once — if you see an impact, you won't be able to tell what change is causing it. Keep a clear goal in mind, and don't test anything that can create friction or confusion for your customers.
Here's how to go about e-commerce split testing.
A/B test product placement on the homepage
Typically, the homepage is used to feature your bestsellers, new arrivals, seasonal items, and products on sale. If you do them justice, such products are likely to get more attention and drive purchases.
But, there’s also something interesting about the way potential customers perceive prices which might be worth experimenting with. Basically, the higher the prices they see first, the more attractive the cheaper products seem to your shoppers.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Anchoring bias. People rely heavily on the first piece of information they see. For example, if they are exposed to the most expensive items first, they treat them as anchors, which makes everything else much cheaper (and more attractive) in comparison.
A/B test product detail pages
Product titles, images, descriptions, price, labels, delivery options, returns policy, care instructions… As you might have guessed already, there are multiple things that you can A/B test on your product detail pages.
And you definitely should. Detailed product pages serve multiple purposes - they are not only an important part of an optimized checkout process but can also help you minimize the chances of your products being returned.
Product images are crucial, especially for fashion, makeup, and lifestyle brands. There’s no need to test their quality — they all have to be on-point. What can be tested, though, is:
- Showing the products in use (e.g. on a model) vs on a simple background (usually one color)
- Using different angles to help customers grasp the scale of the products and see which performs better
- The order in which product images are shown
- Experimenting with video content. If you’re not doing product videos yet, do them for at least part of the inventory, and see if it makes a difference
🧠 Psychology behind it: Von Restorff effect. People tend to notice items that stand out more. Pay attention to what’s on your product images and videos, and in what order they are shown.
You might have heard that “people just don’t pay attention to copy anymore”, but that’s not true. When it comes to product descriptions, the aim is to give buyers enough information to help them assess if that’s the right product for them.
And then convince them to buy the product, of course.
Don’t be afraid to A/B test product descriptions — you can play with information like materials and components used, measurements and size guides, care instructions, similar products or "complete the look" options, and available discounts. You can also try adding your own “personal touch” instead of repeating generic descriptions and see which version, formal vs a little bit more informal, performs better.
Pay attention to how all these details are displayed, though, and in what order. Take advantage of UX features like drop-down tabs, overlay boxes, content on hover, and ‘Further reading’ options - this way you won’t crowd the product page with too much information.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Framing effect. It happens when your decision is influenced more by how the information is presented (or worded) than by the information itself.
Product ratings and reviews
If you want to optimize your product detail pages a bit more, you can also experiment with product ratings and reviews. Choose to display them or not, test their placement, and the order of featured reviews.
If that seems like a lot to handle, the good news is: technology can come to your rescue. Tools like Junip makes collecting customer reviews and displaying them in your online store much easier.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Social proof. People adapt their behaviors based on what others do. The greater the number of people, the more appropriate the action seems - which is why collecting and showing customer reviews can be convincing for potential buyers.
Ah, good old call-to-actions. There are plenty of tips regarding CTAs that you can find all over the web (such as limiting the number of words in your call-to-action to two), but the best way to see if they actually work for your store is to A/B test them yourself.
Before you do, keep in mind that it should always be clear what happens upon clicking the button or a text link. Usually, the more simple and visible your CTA is, the better.
When in doubt: A standard “Add to cart/bag/basket” will most likely do just fine — it’s quite obvious, common, and has a proven track record for plenty of e-retailers out there. If your customers have to look hard for it or need to figure out first if that’s the right button, it’s never a good sign.
Apart from the copy, you can also experiment with the size, colors, and placement of your CTAs.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Cognitive load. In other words, the total amount of mental effort that is required to complete a task. If our brain can process information with ease, it impacts how positively we feel about the task at hand — in this case, proceeding with checkout.
A/B test e-commerce checkout page
One-page, multi-step, accordion — there are quite a few different “setups” for your checkout that you can test. It all revolves around the number of steps to complete the checkout.
Chad Brinkle, Owner of High Country Off-Road store, elaborates:
— The first thing we did was A/B test the checkout page. We've analyzed the data and found that our checkout is too long. We've streamlined the process by removing irrelevant fields, reducing the number of steps required to complete the checkout process, and making it much more intuitive. We also made sure to remove any unnecessary elements. We've found that we've reduced our bounce rate and increased conversion rate as a result of these changes. On average, we've seen a 25% decrease in bounce rate and a 15% increase in conversion rate.
If you see a pretty high bounce and low conversion rates, A/B test a multi-step checkout process against a single page one. You can also try reducing the number of steps or simplifying the design to see if this affects the conversion in any way.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Cognitive load, but also Zeigarnik effect. Incomplete tasks stick in people’s minds more than ones they have completed, so when they begin to work on them, they usually feel a strong desire to follow through. Because of that, allowing customers to clearly and quickly grasp which parts they are done with and how much is still left to do might lead to higher conversion.
Similar rules apply when you test a mini cart vs a full-on checkout page. The first one allows viewing the contents of a cart at all times (and sometimes even buy them right away), without proceeding to another page. The latter, however, typically serves as an order summary right before proceeding with the checkout.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Processing efficacy — people prefer things that are simple to understand and use. Mini carts are pretty straightforward and give shoppers the feeling of more transparency and control (which also speaks to the tendency to believe we can control our environment, known as the Illusion of control).
Do you always force your shoppers to register before they can buy anything from your e-commerce store? Sure, it’s good to try to expand your contact database and encourage repeat purchases, but you may be doing this at the expense of huge numbers of one-time buyers. Not to mention plenty of people who just don’t like having numerous accounts.
Your customers will appreciate having the choice whether to create an account or not, and if you’re skeptical - you should A/B test guest checkout. For account creation, you can also experiment with more options — like signing up with Google or social media accounts. Both solutions can speed up your checkout process and increase conversions.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Spark effect. People are likely to take action when the required effort is small. If you care about a proper shopping experience, don’t make the checkout process harder than it has to be!
A/B test address forms
According to Caitlyn Parish, CEO of Cicinia, there are a few different things you can test during the checkout process.
— One example is the number of fields in your form. If you have a long form with many required fields, you may be driving customers away. Alternatively, you could try reducing the number of fields or making some of them optional, she says.
Number of fields
A/B test the number of fields to check whether your customers are more willing to complete it if there are fewer fields. In general, it’s good to keep things focused on the purchase and avoid asking for any information that’s not necessary.
You could, for example, try using a single field for the customer’s full name (rather than separate first and last name), and make the shipping address the same as the billing address — unless the customer requests otherwise.
A/B test delivery options
One of the easiest ways to find out what your customers prefer (and for what price) is to A/B test your delivery offering. You can choose to display different carriers, show them in a different order, or experiment with a free shipping threshold and delivery upsell (especially if you aim to increase the Average Order Value).
For Babyshop Group, for example, Ingrid’s A/B testing feature proved that customers are willing to add more to the cart. Marcus Svensson, Head of Data Science at Babyshop Group shares:
— Ingrid's A/B Testing proved that setting a higher shipping price deviates negatively on conversion by 2.45%, however, the test showed an increase of 4.2% in average order value, resulting in a total of 11% increase in shipping revenue and 5.5% in gross profit per session. These figures have proven to be of a strong fact that the pricing strategy for deliveries should be changed.
Another example? Free delivery offer in the Netherlands has been key to understanding the logic behind evolving consumer habits for IDEAL OF SWEDEN. With Ingrid Delivery Upsell Widget, the brand was able to set the free shipping criteria to a cart value of 45€ or above to experiment with consumer preferences in the Dutch market.
The hypothesis was that a free delivery offer would raise the average order value and transaction conversion rate, while also boosting the number of upsell products — displayed underneath the free shipping indicator — added to the initial cart value.
The results of the test were pretty impressive:
- 7.81% increase in the Transaction Conversion Rate with a 100% statistical significance
- 7% boost in the Average Order Value
- 10.75% increase in users who completed their purchase after adding to the cart
If that sounds like something you’d like to achieve as well, book a demo to find out more about Ingrid.
🧠 Psychology behind it: Goal gradient effect. The closer people are to reaching a milestone (e.g. finalizing the purchase), the faster they work towards it. Even artificial or estimated progress indicators — such as Free Shipping Bar — can help to motivate shoppers.
On the other hand, there’s also the Immediacy effect that makes people, when presented with two similar possible things, want the one that will arrive or take place soonest, which can make some delivery methods more popular than others.
A/B test payment options
Similarly to choosing the delivery experience, online shoppers like having a choice when it comes to (secure) payment methods. Apart from standard payment methods like credit and debit cards, you can add PayPal, Buy-Now-Pay-Later options like Klarna, Apple Pay, or even bank transfers if you wish to.
To check which ones are the most popular among your customers, you can try A/B testing different payment options, as well as when and how you feature payment providers in your store (e.g. by adding their logos in a specific order on the checkout page).
🧠 Psychology behind it: Pain of paying. The act of paying reduces the pleasure of the purchase, which is why adding favorite payment methods and simplifying the checkout process is always a good idea. Not to mention that delayed payment option is also a proven way to ease the pain of paying.
A/B testing in practice: How to set up an A/B test?
The easiest way to go about e-commerce A/B testing is to invest in dedicated tools.
Optimizely: E-commerce store optimization
Optimizely is a feature-rich, enterprise-level suite of different tech solutions. Its Web Experimentation is a powerful front-end tool for A/B testing, multivariate testing, and multi-page (funnel) testing. In simple terms, it lets you create variations for several page elements (such as blocks, images, content, buttons, form fields, and so on) and then measures the number of conversions from the original version versus its variation to check which performs better.
Even though the pricing plans are not displayed on the website, rumor has it that it's one of the most expensive options on the A/B testing software market.
VWO: Website testing
VWO is said to be one of the leading web testing and conversion optimization platforms. Its Testing tool helps you run powerful A/B, multi-variate, split, multi-device, and multi-page tests on your website to turn your visitors into paying customers.
VWO gives you plenty of options to set up your A/B tests exactly the way you want to so that you can experiment at scale.
Convertize: Affordable A/B testing tool
With a 14-day free trial and transparent pricing plans starting from $49, Convertize is one of the most attractively-priced tools on the market. Better yet, it helps you put A/B testing on autopilot. The algorithm monitors your pages at all times to see which is converting best and sends more of your traffic to that page.
If you're just starting with e-commerce A/B testing, Convertize might be the right fit for you.
Google Optimize: Free website A/B testing
Google Optimize (which used to be called Google Website Optimizer) lets you run website tests for free. Any small business can use it to optimize their e-commerce websites, and experiment with A/B, multivariate, and redirect testing.
It natively integrates with other Google solutions, which can save you a lot of time and effort if you rely on them when running your business.
Ingrid: Delivery checkout A/B testing
Ingrid’s delivery platform connects merchants, carriers, and consumers to create a better shopping experience for everyone. One of Ingrid's powerful features is Delivery Checkout A/B Testing that helps you set up and present different delivery options to see which convert better. Plus, there's also Delivery Upsell that lets you experiment with the free shipping threshold.
And the best part? You can now connect other A/B testing tools like above-mentioned Optimizely or VWO to Ingrid A/B testing experiments. Have a chat with our team to see how these features can increase your checkout conversions.
As you can see, there are plenty of A/B testing tools available for your e-commerce business. The key is to find one that can be tailored to your needs. Before you make a decision, pay attention to available features, pricing plans, and reviews for each.
Tips: Before you start A/B testing
- Conduct an A/A test with two identical groups subjected to the same variation. If one of the variations wins with high statistical confidence, something is likely to be wrong with the test setup
- Use as large sample size as possible to achieve more accurate and reliable test results
- Don't jump to conclusions too quickly - be patient and put your intuition (or wishful thinking) aside for A/B tests. If needed, try running the experiments for a longer period of time to validate the test results
- Don't stop optimizing. As already mentioned, checkout optimization is a never-ending process. The more customers you have, the more valuable the insights will be.
Ready to start A/B testing? Book a demo to optimize your delivery checkout with Ingrid.