Best Practice Gone Bad: 4 Shocking A/B Tests

One company’s “best practice” is another’s conversion killer.

In our webinar E-Commerce Conversion Optimization from Entry to Checkout, Chris Goward of WiderFunnel shared several real A/B tests that bust a few best practice myths. We’ll examine 4 here (to see ‘em all, why don’t you check out the replay?)

1. Promote the heck out of your promotions

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Put psychological pressure on your customer to convert now instead of checking out competitors, sleeping on the decision or letting the sale event expire. Do it with “BUY NOW” labels, quantity in-stock countdowns or suggest the sale price might not be around tomorrow.

It’s actually sound advice that is expected to convert like crazy for some websites. But it doesn’t work for every site.

WineExpress tested an urgent call to action “order in the next [remaining time] and get $0.99 shipping” during a 24-hour shipping promotion event.

The result was a 7% decrease in conversion rate for the version with the shipping offer.

The marketing insight is, the wine connaisseur is not a deal-hunter. She is less likely to respond well to aggressive sales incentives.

A follow up test confirmed this belief. WiderFunnel tested a larger call-to-action window with “on sale now” messaging.

The result was a 5% conversion rate lift, and 41% higher revenue per visitor for the original page, without the sale messaging.

For this business, perhaps testing an incentive of a wine connaisseur gift, such as a wine-saver or bottle opener combined with an urgency message would have outperformed the control. (An idea to test, not to implement just because it sounds like it could work.)

3. Follow web conventions

Peruse through the Internet Retailer Top 500 List and 99.9% or higher will present the add to cart button on the right hand side. It’s one of the most entrenched web design conventions we have in the Western world.

But does that mean it’s optimal?

According to research by Jakob Nielsen, user’s eye fixations skew heavily to the left side of a page.

Baby Age flipped image and call to action, placing the CTA on the left, which lead to a 16% boost in conversion rate.

Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional design!

4. Over-communicate security

Everyone’s scared to shop online, right? You’ve gotta remind folks you’re a secure site, yeah?

Using a security badge has helped improve conversion on countless sites, especially when proximal to the entry fields for financial information. We’ve even published 2 cases where conversion rate improved 4-6%.

But this isn’t a universal rule.

In this test by WiderFunnel, the version without the security seal won the test.

It really depends on the site.

Sometimes reminding folks about the risk of shopping online arouses FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

The point of this post is not to say best practice doesn’t matter. Rather, take “best practice” advice under advisement, and put it to the (A/B) test on your site to see if it’s best practice for your industry, geography, customers, product and site context.


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4 Responses to “Best Practice Gone Bad: 4 Shocking A/B Tests”

  1. Jestep says:

    I would be extremely careful with the left-right add to cart placement.

    Baby Age may have had a boost, but look at the page. It’s cluttered enough that the add to card button is lost on the page. It just looks like another ad or promotion. I would be willing to bet that the increase in conversion came because shoppers could actually distinguish the button better on the left than on the right. I wouldn’t attribute this to placement as much as coincidental contrast due to an overly busy product page.

    I would also suggest to them to test the additional items away from the add to cart button. The free shipping banner would be much more appropriate under the add to cart anyway. Seriously if you’re trying to get someone to add something to their cart, why would you show them alternatives right under the button. They’ve already committed, you are now giving them a reason to change their mind.

  2. Interesting read. Promotions / Special offer placement is pretty key and we’ve found that the majority of clicks comes from the Special offer section being within the header. One good and underused placement for Special offers is within the mega menu, having a section for each main category will ensure higher CTR for the consumer.

  3. Dan says:

    I was about to ask “so, what about the 4th point?”, then only realizing that you have 2 point #3′s!

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