Whenever I predict the winner of an A/B test, I get it wrong.
With years of marketing experience and a lifetime of filling out online forms, I think I know what combinations of copy, layout, and design will work better. But thousands of users prove me wrong, time and again.
Take this example:
Chris Dayley, owner of SmartCRO, asked attendees at his Content Marketing World presentation, Creating Emails and Landing Pages That Convert, which landing page had a higher conversion rate.
The overwhelming majority picked the blue version (right). They thought it had the better design and the other one looked amateurish with a poor color combination. I too picked the blue version.
The blue version lost. The green version had 13.5% more conversions.
“I’ve run over 1,000 A/B tests. And one thing that has become glaringly obvious to me is that it’s impossible to predict what is going to work best on an email, landing page, or website. Thus, the need for A/B testing,” Chris says.It’s impossible to predict what’s going to convert. You need A/B testing, says @Chrisdayley via @cmicontent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
His presentation focused on the six things to test in every email and landing page:
- Value proposition
- Call to action
I’ll cover each area in detail.
1. Test the value proposition
Communicating your product’s value proposition is a fundamental aspect of emails and landing pages. What is your brand selling? What makes it unique? Why should the prospect consider your product over your competitors’?
Collect data on which value propositions resonate best with users. Asking them doesn’t work because, while they think they know, they may not. About 95% of purchase decisions happen in the subconscious mind, according to research from Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman.
In addition to validating your value proposition with data, Chris urges you to consider the user’s motivation. He shared this formula:
Motivation = (Perceived Benefit) – (Perceived Cost)
The perceived benefit are the things in your value proposition statement. The perceived cost is everything involved in purchasing your product: reading the documentation, using the product, talking to customer service, returning the product, etc.
If the perceived cost exceeds the perceived benefit, then users will decline the offer.If perceived costs exceed perceived benefits, users will decline an offer, says @Chrisdayley via @cmicontent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Chris highlighted a value proposition test of customer testimonial quotes on a company on its landing page. He wanted to see which perceived benefit would drive the highest conversion rate:
The winning option – the company’s availability every step of the way – had 26.5% more conversions.
As Chris says, use data to inform the value propositions that will work best.
2. Evaluate the call to action
Chris relates the importance of proper calls to action with this anecdote. He asked his two daughters to “stand there and act like you love each other.” While the photo was adorable, it wasn’t quite what Chris and his wife imagined. If he had wanted that image, he realized he should have made a more direct call to action: “Put your arm around her and smile.”
“With calls to action, we need to tell our audience exactly what we want them to do,” Chris says.With calls to action, we need to tell our audience exactly what we want them to do, says @Chrisdayley via @cmicontent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Telling the audience what to do also limits the options. If users have multiple calls to action, they may not be able to pick one and forgo all choices instead. Here’s an example:
On the left, there’s a single CTA (blue button). On the right, there are three CTAs (dark buttons). The single choice generated 371% more clicks. The focused CTA won.
CTA labels – the language you use in your call to action – are a critical factor. For example, “purchase” vs. “buy now” can make a difference in conversion rate. Chris showed this example from the Social Media Examiner website:
The headline, image, and copy are identical. The only difference was the CTA label. “Instant Download” was the winner with 12.6% more conversions.
“When you find something that resonates, you know that it’s important to your audience. So, you can’t go wrong with running tests like this,” Chris says.
3. Check the content
As content marketers know well, content comes in many shapes and sizes. What’s the right size and shape for your email or landing page? As you might have guessed, Chris uses data to get the answers.
When formatting content in an email or landing page, he says, you should answer these questions:
- Should we show giant paragraphs of content?
- Should we use bullet points?
- Should we have images with our content?
Chris shared two examples. The first tested how users respond to the same offer formatted in different ways. The first used intentional design elements: a hero image, a headline, a button CTA, and social-sharing icons. The second was like a plain-text email: copy and link.
The well-designed format produced 64% more clicks.
“On the left, there’s a lot of visual hierarchy that takes you through this email in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re reading a giant block of text. The version on the right, it just feels like you’re reading a ton of text,” says Chris.
In the next example, a podcast promotion assumed that people who would visit the landing page know what they want. Thus, the page had minimal information shown above the fold.
Chris ran an A/B test, creating another version by moving more details above the fold. By showing more details at the top, the second page generated 19.8% more orders:
“If we don’t give people enough information when they first get to this page, they’re going to leave. So even positioning on a page can have a huge impact,” Chris says.If you don’t give enough information above the fold, people are going to leave the landing page, says @Chrisdayley via @cmicontent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
4. Eliminate diversions
The objective of a landing page is to get someone to convert. What can prevent a conversion? Diversions. What causes diversions? Everything. Among the diversions mentioned by Chris:
- Contrasting color
- Other offers
- Links to other pages
- Pop ups
Chris highlighted a company that sells Disneyland tickets. This page’s primary objective is for visitors to book a vacation. The original design prominently featured the booking area but included a lot of content beneath it – content that could divert visitors’ attention away from completing a booking.
The company eliminated that content and saw 7.2% more conversions:
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
5. Avoid anxiety
Without realizing it, you could be creating anxiety for your visitors if your emails or landing pages are:
Anxious visitors are less likely to convert.
As an example, Chris showed a page listing ticket options for Social Media Marketing World. There’s a lot of information to digest:
All this information could introduce anxiety for visitors who also may wonder what to do after comparing each ticket.
Chris and the conference team added registration buttons and pricing information under each ticket option. They also labeled one ticket as “most popular.” The winning combination included all these additional elements and resulted in 9% higher sales:
6. Optimize for responsiveness
These days, every site should be mobile responsive. Chris says the better option is to optimize the site for the mobile visitor: Is there less content to scroll through? Is navigation easy? Can visitors tap a phone number to make a direct call?
Chris showed three mobile versions of a page:
The middle design generated 10% more appointments than the original, while the design on the right generated 41% more appointments. Small adjustments can make a big difference.
When people say, “users research on mobile, but return later and convert on desktop,” it’s because the mobile experience is inadequate, Chris says. He has seen people make purchases of several thousand dollars on their mobile device.When people say users research on mobile, but return later & convert on desktop, it’s because the mobile experience is inadequate, says @Chrisdayley via @cmicontent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Are you converted?
I’ve built landing pages that generated conversion rates in the 5% to 20% range. I could have done much better following Chris’ intentional approach that focuses on value proposition, call to action, content, diversions, anxiety, and responsiveness.
By optimizing these areas, my standout 20%-converting page may have scored a 33% conversion or higher.
Have you been converted? Do you see the benefit of testing and optimizing these six things in every email and landing page? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Here’s an excerpt from Chris’s talk:
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute