What is A/B Testing in Marketing? (With Examples)

Your website/inbound marketing machine is an incredibly important tool in your sales and marketing arsenal. 

After all, who wouldn’t want an always-on salesperson, working hard to drive leads 24/7? No breaks, no wages, just results. 

However, if you want this salesperson working at 100% efficiency, you need to give it some love. No marketing strategy is born perfect, and you’ll need to perform regular optimisations to help ensure it’s delivering warm, ready-to-convert leads. 

There’s one very key component of this process: A/B testing. In this blog, we’ll run through what A/B testing is, why it’s so important and how you do it. 


What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is a well-established user experience research methodology. 

In short, you alter two variables and measure the difference this makes. It’s incredibly important that every other variable remains the same – the only things that change are your ‘A’ and ‘B’. 

This allows you to measure whether there’s any difference made by changing certain aspects of your marketing campaign.


Here’s an example of A/B testing

So, for example, say we work for a chocolate company and we’re looking at running a marketing campaign.

As a part of this campaign, we’re sending out emails to a broad database of potential customers. 

In order to learn what works best, we decide to A/B test the email subject lines to see whether this impacts our email open rates. We settle on two subject lines, one very short, and one a little longer. 

Subject 1: Chocco time? 🤩

Subject 2: Bad day? Chocco bar’s got your back. 

We then split the data randomly down the middle and send the emails out. 

After a few days, we look over the analytics to see how our emails have performed. 

Email one saw an open rate of 21.3%, which is very good for a B2C email!

Email two saw an open rate of 18.5%, which is slightly below average for B2C emails. 

As a result, we determine that shorter subject lines are likely better when trying to improve our email open rates. We’ll test it a couple more times to check, but it’s a good start. 


What else can be A/B tested?

Pretty much anything with changeable variables can be A/B tested, including (but not limited to):


  • Headlines and subheadings
  • Body copy (change up how you describe something and see if it makes a difference)
  • Subject lines (as above)
  • Keep copy simple vs adding more information to see what converts


Design & layout:

  • Edit colours
  • Change up call-to-action buttons
  • Put key details above the scroll line
  • Alter your nav to see what works best
  • Form positioning on webpage

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should put into perspective just how versatile and important A/B testing is when improving website conversion rate. 


A/B Testing tips and tricks

  1. Make sure to establish your goals at the start of the process. You need to know what you’re A/B test is, well, testing. It might be conversion rates, or open rates (as with our example above. 
  2. Measure where you are at the start, otherwise you won’t know whether the changes you’re making are actually worth the time.
  3. Once you know exactly how well things are performing, it’s time to prioritise your actions. Start by A/B testing the most important pages that will help you meet your agreed KPIs – homepages, contact pages, service pages, etc. 
  4. Avoid testing too many variables at once. If you do this, how will you know which variable was the positive one?
  5. Try to ignore your gut feeling. Often, we want a certain outcome, but the data suggests otherwise. In marketing, we need to focus on what the data is saying, not what we want to be true.  
  6. Don’t forget environmental factors – time of year, geopolitical events and more can affect your test. Take this into account if it’s had a tangible impact on your results. 
  7. ‘Failed’ campaigns aren’t necessarily failures. If you can learn from a campaign that didn’t deliver how you’d like, then it’s not a failure! Marketing is often about trial and error, so identify what went wrong and try again. 


The importance of regular A/B testing

Without testing, how would you know what’s working well, and what needs to change?

The biggest mistake that people make in their marketing/on their websites is making changes based on hunches and guesswork rather than testing, gathering data and identifying what’s actually working. 


A/B testing allows you to improve your website’s conversion rate

It takes some time to do (as you’re only testing two variables at once), but over time A/B testing allows you to refine your key webpages and marketing comms, improving overall conversion rates and helping your business to grow. 

More A/B testing leads to better conversion rates, which in turn leads to:

  • More leads and enquiries coming in organically from your website
  • Better business growth (and more overall opportunities)

It’s one of the most important elements of marketing success. However, it does take a fair amount of time and effort. Worried you don’t have the time? Then you need to speak to Catalyst


Partner with the conversion rate optimisation experts

We are Catalyst – an award-winning, commercially-focused digital marketing agency based in Birmingham. 

When we say ‘commercially focused’, we mean it. We focus on data and facts rather than guesswork and hunches, helping deliver results in the form of tangible business growth, more leads and more sales for our clients. 

If you’d like to join a list of growing businesses, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team to discuss your marketing efforts.

Book a call directly

About the author

Sarah Groves has worked in marketing for over 20 years. 

She’s worked across a wide range of B2B and B2C sectors, both big blue chips and SMEs. As co-owner of Catalyst, Sarah draws on her broad experience to oversee the delivery team and help input into client strategies. She’s built a curated team from the best talent across copy, design, SEO, PPC and strategy, providing you with the most cost-efficient way to grow your business and thrive. 

When Sarah’s not working, you’ll find her spending time with her young family, or taking the dog for a long walk while listening to a podcast. 


Sarah Groves