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Love Your Losers: Personalization is the Future of A/B Testing

website personalization and ab testing

The Problem with A/B Testing

A/B testing is often the go-to tool in your marketing arsenal. Want to test the impact of new creative without risking your bottom line? A/B test! Looking to optimize your funnel, click-by-click? A/B test! Split your traffic, measure the performance, winner takes all.

Which is exactly the problem.

A/B testing crowns winners, but by default it also make losers. Even with a blow-out result, a percentage of your visitors preferred the loser. They liked the loser! It worked for them. But with today’s approach to A/B testing, marketers choose the option that pleases the most people, leaving those loser-lovers in the dust.

Traditionally, websites are one size fits all. Every visitor gets the same design, content, calls-to-action, etc. Without the ability to run both experiences that you tested at once, you’re forced to do a disservice to a sizeable portion of your audience, which could mean leaving valuable conversions on the table.

Website Personalization to the Rescue

Fortunately, change is here. Websites can now leverage data about their audiences to give each visitor a personalized experience. You can use website personalization to show the different groups the content that’s the most relevant to their interests, whether they’re new or returning, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

If you understand the trends within your audience, you can personalize the experience to mitigate loss and optimize conversions, whether that means decreasing your site’s bounce rate, growing your email subscriber list, increasing shares from your website, or any other number of marketing goals. Then, A/B testing stops being about what test wins with your general audience, and instead what wins with a specific group. Tailor your content to the segment, not a general one-size-fits-all solution.

By identifying audience trends within users that preferred the losing variation of your A/B test, you can optimize your experience to that specific segment.

How to Get Started

The Right Tool for the Job

We’ve thought a lot about this at AddThis, and have built tools to help you target website visitors based on their activity across 15 million websites. You can break out your audience using their interests, social activity, and more. With the AddThis online tool configurator you can customize your tools, compose your creative, and execute your campaign in one place. It’s a one-stop-shop for audience targeting. Explore the AddThis Targeting Tools page to learn more about how they can work for you.

Understand your Audience

With the right tools in-hand, the next step to effective website personalization is understanding the wants and needs of each audience segment. Keying-in to your audience’s motivation, demographic, location, or interests will give you insight into how to target with craft stimuli.

As a quick example, let’s say you’re running a site with a list of preferred vendors. Father’s Day is on the horizon, and you’re trying to direct motivated visitors to the right seller.

You’ve used our Audience Targeting tools to identify two separate groups, based on interest. The first group are foodies who may be motivated by a culinary-based pitch (“BBQ Gadgets for Dad!”), while the latter are gearheads (“Father’s Day Car Detailing – 20% off.”)

Either option may have not performed well against a general message (“Father’s Day is coming!”) in an unsegmented A/B split, but when broken out they better target their respective audiences. You could even further test within these groups to see how different executions of each concept is most effective.

Start with the Basics

Two of the easiest audiences to start personalizing for are new and returning visitors. New visitors have never been to your site before, but returning visitors likely have some kind of pre-existing relationship with you.

Users who have been to your site before can be targeted with content like “what’s new!” or show a page with links to account information (any recent orders or cart) higher in the hierarchy. New users could be greeted with an on-boarding process to get things started on the right-foot. You wouldn’t want to necessarily show either experience to the other group, but when you split the traffic out everybody is a winner and you’ve increased the likelihood that visitor will convert.

Instead of optimizing for the majority of your site visitors, and leaving potential conversions on the table, tailor your messaging and content for key audiences, increasing the overall effectiveness of your message.