The importance of A/B testing has long been established in the digital world and almost all big companies are doing it to increase their conversion rates and revenue. If you also want to improve your conversion and sales, it’s time you start testing your website.
But, what should you A/B test? This is the question that troubles many new entrepreneurs. And when it comes down to the homepage, which is such a crucial part of the funnel, it's easy to make many mistakes.
Unfortunately, there are loads of different opinions when it comes to the elements that make a significant difference to a website and hence, should be A/B tested to improve the results. To help resolve this long-standing question, this is the first article in a series of blog posts to discuss, in detail, the what, why, and how of A/B testing for different webpages.
I've been working on conversion rate optimization for the past decade, and have been consulting with SMEs and Fortune 500s to increase their leads, sales and revenue mostly by using A/B testing.
[ NOTE: if you want me to look at your business, you can get in touch with me here to discuss CRO and AB Tests for your ecommerce store. ]
So in this article, we are going to discuss all the essential information that you need to know about A/B testing the homepage of your ecommerce website.
If you want take it to the next level, listen to this podcast episode for my template for a successful homepage.
Why Should You A/B Test the Homepage of Your eCommerce Store?
The homepage of your website works as your storefront in the digital world. In most cases, it is the very first thing that your traffic coming from different sources sees. Hence, it plays a key role in setting up an impression of your brand, and products and/or services to your visitors. It is also the page that makes visitors decide if they want to stay on your website or not.
Therefore, your homepage should have the best of everything – design, image(s), and content – to ensure that it makes a strong first impression on your visitors and convince them to stay on your website for longer and explore your brand and offers.
A/B testing can help you do this!
Do you know how much time you have to impress and convince visitors when they land on the homepage of your website?
If you are unable to capture the attention of your visitors in the quarter of a minute, you will lose the traffic you worked so hard to generate.
This means your homepage needs to do A LOT of things right to make that happen. It needs to:
- Tell your visitors what you do and sell
- Why they should pay attention to your store and not others
- Start building trust and a relationship
- Make the visitor feel safe if they eventually decide to purchase from you
- Funnel visitors to the next steps in the process, mostly the category, search results or product pages.
That's a lot to ask.
So if done right, A/B testing different variants on your website’s homepage will help you to create an experience that can yield a ton of sales and revenue for your Brand.
However, for most business owners and marketers, the decision of A/B testing the homepage isn’t an easy one, especially when their existing homepage is working fine. When your existing homepage is already performing, it often becomes difficult to figure out if it has the potential to do better. It does, there's always room for improvement. But, you wouldn’t know unless you do it!
Mostly, A/B testing can help you to create an alternative version of your store’s homepage based on data, and not your perception or intuition.
While this has made it quite clear that A/B testing is crucial to improve the performance of your website’s homepage, the question regarding what to test is still there.
To make sure you don’t end up investing your time, money, and effort in testing elements that do not make a significant impact on your site’s performance, you need to know which elements are worth testing.
7 Homepage A/B Testing Ideas for Your eCommerce Store
The goal of a homepage, as discussed above, is to create a strong first impression on your visitors, provide all of them a great and personalized experience, generate leads, and, if you play your cards right, make them visit your search results, category or product pages.
Here are some homepage elements that I've tested before and got wins for my clients:
There are a few things that you should test in the navigation bar/menu:
Hamburger Menu vs. Full Navigation
While the hamburger menu format is traditionally used for mobile versions of websites, many businesses are now also adopting that design for their desktop sites. So, it’s interesting to test it on your website to see if it brings any positive change in user behavior and results.
When performing this test, you can also create two versions of the hamburger menu; one with the standard hamburger icon and the second with the word Menu written next to it.
The appeal of this test is that it declutters the header, making room for other important elements such as your tagline, some value proposition copy or enlarging the search form, all of which can cause more visitors to convert.
Lastly, when running this A/B test, you should specifically pay attention to and measure the impact of the new design on clicks and pages per visit because you are hiding quality links to key pages in your funnel.
Sticky vs. Non-sticky Navigation
According to research, sticky menus or navigation bars are about 22% quicker to navigate than their non-sticky counterparts.
For those who do not know, sticky navigation is where navigation bar is fixed to the top of the browser so that it doesn’t disappear when users scroll down the page.
Non-sticky navigation, on the other hand, disappears as users scroll down, requiring them to scroll up to the top of the page again in order to view and/or click another category or page.
However, you shouldn’t simply opt for sticky navigation on your website just because the research tells that it performs better. Every business has a unique target audience and what works for one business doesn’t necessarily work for others too. The drawback for example is that it takes space at the top of the page where users pretty much always look. It's also somewhat distracting and can take away from more important elements you want your users to see.
Therefore, you should always A/B test changes that you are considering to make on your site before actually implementing it.
Order of the Pages/ Categories on the Navigation Bar
What pages or categories of your website get the most traffic or help you generate the most customers? Those are the ones that should be most emphasized, highlighted, or focused upon, and most often, to the left of the navigation.
This can be achieved by changing the order of the navigation bar or the copy or names for different pages or categories to see which one brings the best/desired result. Here, the desired results mean getting the highest number of clicks for the pages or categories that make the most contribution to generating leads and customers.
For example, you can test the variants Why Use Us and What We Offer and see if it makes any changes in user behavior.
If you want to get an idea of how your visitors behave with your navigation, you can set up a heat mapping tool such as Hotjar, which will tell you the most clicked elements on your menu. Then you can perhaps test moving these to the left as a first test.
Highlighting the Best/Attractive Offers in the Navigation Bar
Offers that generally attract users, such as Sale, Best-Selling Products, and New-Arrivals, are found to get a lot more attention when they are highlighted in the navigation menu. So, it’s worth testing their impact through A/B testing.
When it comes to testing the CTA of your website homepage, you should test both its copy and position as both these factors can have huge impacts on their performance.
The copy of a CTA button typically has to be short, crisp, simple, and clear, although I've had wins with copy that are much longer than conventional.
But the copy should clearly tell the users what you want them to do next.
With regards to the position of the CTA button, there are no rules or fixed place where it should appear on your homepage, but the click-through rate is likely to be higher when it is placed somewhere in the top of the page, above the fold, because not all your visitors are likely to scroll down to the middle/bottom of the page. However, you should try out multiple positions to see which one is performing the best among your audience. You can also test using the CTA button more than once on the homepage.
It might come as a surprise to some, but even the seemingly insignificant factors – color, shape, and font – can also make a significant difference in the click-through rate. That being said, you're likely to get better results from testing the copy that anything else. If you are to test the shape and color of the button, do it because the actual color doesn't make the CTA stand out, which can be a design flaw and hurt clicks.
Supporting Copy & Info
Nothing converts more than copy. In my 8 years as a CRO consultant, having done hundreds of tests, the vast majority of the wins I've gotten my clients were in the form of a copy tweak. Enhancing the existing one. or flat out adding much more of it.
The homepage needs to convey trust and tell your users if they are in the right place or if they should bounce.
Your copy should therefore tell them what males you different from competitors and how that benefits them. It's your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Be sure to test several angles and concepts on your main headline, value propositions and all the sections your homepage has.
The number one lever for sales is social proof. Showing reviews is possible well known these days, but actually having tactically good reviews and testimonials that can increase your sales, that's something that most marketers miss completely.
Be sure you show your best reviews, that appeal to your visitors' likes and desires, and that counter their major objections. For example, if the quality of your products is something your visitors worry about, show them a review that states to the quality of the items received. Make sure you test different reviews to see which ones convert best.
Also show where your company has been featured, it shows you are legit and that build trust which will be useful later once the user hits your product pages. It also prevents them to bounce off the page. For this, you can test the placement of the logos, their size, the accompanying headline and their order.
Login and/or Signup Buttons
Any additional button or link can become a distraction to your users and prevent them from moving to the next step in the funnel.
Whether it is for getting access to your content offer or something else, if you require users to signup and login, figure out what’s more beneficial for you – returning visitors logging into their existing accounts or getting more new signups.
Depending on what’s your priority, try altering the order of these links/buttons – or their design (if both are appearing on the homepage) or decide which one should appear on the page (if only one button appears on your homepage).
Typically, you'll want to prioritize signups to build a bigger customer base. Plus, returning members are more likely to find the login button easily, as they look for it intuitively.
The footer of the homepage, or any webpage per se, is one of the most overlooked areas of a website. What many people don’t realize or know that the content in the footer of the homepage can make a huge difference in user behavior.
For better results, you have to carefully decide what should appear in the homepage footer and then, place it strategically to drive maximum results as opposed to just throwing in a bunch of links and your contact details; the way we see on most websites’ homepages. Again, create different variations and A/B test them to figure the best one out.
It is common knowledge that distractions are conversion killers. As a business owner and marketer, your goal is to limit distractions on each page of your website to make sure your target users behave the way you want and take your desired actions. However, it’s easier said than done.
Since distractions cannot be measured, you need to effectively interpret the analytics data to figure out potential distractions on your homepage before A/B testing and removing them.
Look at unused elements via heatmaps and scrollmaps to see if anything can be removed from your page. This will keep the focus on parts of the page your users are more interested in.
Additional Lead Generating Techniques
Live chat box and pop-ups are some of the most widely used methods or tactics on the homepage for lead generation, apart from the standard CTA and signups buttons. But, it is important to A/B test them to determine if they are actually making positive contributions. Pop-ups, in particular, can sometimes be annoying for customers. Therefore, it is important to make sure they are not making you lose potential leads and customers.
Successful Examples of Homepage A/B Testing
To help you understand its importance, here are some examples where businesses experienced positive results, in various ways, by A/B testing different elements on their homepage:
One of the world’s largest printers of wall decal, stickers, and murals, Wall Monkeys increased its conversion rate by 550% by optimizing its homepage through multiple A/B tests.
After generating and analyzing user behavior reports, they first run a test by creating an alternative version of the homepage with a different (hero) image. The test version of the homepage had a more fun and whimsical image in place of the stock-style picture on the original homepage. This very simple variation helped Wall Monkeys increase their conversion rate by 27%.
But, they didn’t stop there.
After seeing a significant improvement in their conversion rate, Wall Monkeys decided to run another A/B test.
This time changing the slider with a search bar. And this second A/B test did wonders for the company – it experienced a whopping 500% increase in the conversion rate.
While not as impressive as Wall Monkeys’, Instapage also experienced an improved performance of their homepage through A/B testing. The improvement came in the form of increased session duration, signups, and product page views, and reduced bounce rate.
In multiple A/B tests, Instapage tested the following elements of their homepage:
- Secondary CTA button – they changed it from Watch Video to See How it Works.
- In the second A/B test, Instapage replaced the counter showing the number of landing page visitors along with the average conversion rate in the previous 30 days with a 3D comparison of the average PPC conversion rate of the industry to that of Instapage customers.
- The next A/B test included changing the top listed features that are just hyperlinked with specific CTA buttons.
- The next test involves changes in how testimonials are displayed on their homepage – the original or controlled version only showed one testimonial at a time, whereas the test version displayed multiple testimonials in a slider format and with company names.
- In the last homepage A/B test, the marketing team of Instapage changed the copy of the closing header and CTA buttons.
As a result of all these A/B tests, Instapage experienced the following improvements in their homepage performance:
- The number of free-trial signups increased from 840 to 985.
- Session duration increased from 53:20 to 56:19
- Total views of product pages also increased during the test
- Bounce rate significantly decreased from 27.63% to 7.11%
Now, It’s Your Turn…
With all the questions and concerns regarding A/B testing a website’s homepage sorted, it’s time for you to A/B test different elements on the homepage of your ecommerce store in order to improve its performance.
Generate and analyze user behavior reports and heatmaps to figure out what areas of your homepage have room for improvement and then perform A/B testing for better results. However, make sure to not stop A/B testing just after one test, even if it provides great results. You never know that you may also get a huge increase in conversion rate just like Wall Monkeys.