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32% Increase in Conversions by A/B Testing for The Right Reasons

Good design is good business, as Thomas J Watson so succinctly put. Naturally then, the problem of business is discovering ‘good’ design. And the answer, on-going testing. Offline businesses struggle at this because data is infinitely difficult to gather. Luckily for online businesses, gathering data has never been a problem.

Over the last few years, we’ve published case studies of over 150 successful conversion optimization tests. A lot of these case studies make for some intriguing reading, and if you observe closely enough, you’ll find a few tests and changes thereof that have consistently delivered results. Today, we’ll examine a case where a handful of such ‘best practices’ (scroll down to the bottom to see my thoughts on what ‘best practices’  is) came together to deliver amazing results. Validated, all through, by data.

The Client

‘White Card Courses’ offers induction training for workers operating in the construction space across Australia. Aimed at replacing a range of other certification cards, it delivers standard and consistent training that complies with the National Code of Practice of Australia. The FAQs section on the site explains that it is mandatory for a prospect to have a white card if he wishes to work in the construction industry down under.

Such validation from the industry helps receive strong traffic. However, sales, could always get better (wink). And for that, they looked in the direction of conversion optimization and found Conversion UP (a team of conversion specialists based out of Australia). Then, Grant Merriel at the agency turned to VWO.

The Hypothesis

Grant hypothesized that even though the home page contained the differentiating factors of the business (money-back guarantee and same-day-dispatch of certificates), they were buried somewhere deep in the page (below the fold) where no visitor ever goes. After doing his research he concluded that these trust badges were competitive advantages that deserved better visibility to create the desired impact – sales.

Three changes were proposed to the original home page

  • Change CTA text from “Click to Purchase” to “Start Now”
  • Change CTA and subheading background color
  • Add trust and guarantee badges below the hero image

How Was the Hypothesis Arrived At?

Grant explains, “Before going into a lot of data, the test idea came from solving the most common questions that customers were asking, as it suggests that there was a large disconnect between what the business offered and the website.

To understand the pulse of customers and their concerns about the site, Grant and team went through support tickets filed by users, sat down with the client for a one-to-one discussion and went through site analytic.

At this point it’s worth noting that Conversion UP didn’t test these changes because they were ‘best practices’, but because they gathered customer insights pointing towards these changes. Sadly, a lot of us a/b test certain changes because it worked for another business.

The A/B Test

Control vs Variation

The Result

The test ran on 6585 visitors over a period of 3 weeks and the winning variation recorded a robust 32% increase in conversion(visits to the payment page) from the main homepage, and a 20.9% increase in clicks on the payment page.

To put that in perspective, the control gave 21.79% conversions (visits to the payment page linked to the homepage CTA) and 10.13% on the payment page CTA. The variation trumped the control with 28.76% conversions from the homepage and 12.25% on the payment page. Both the results had a confidence level of 99.9%, which is to say the client could be 99% confident that they would achieve these conversion rates with the variation every time.

Why did the Variation Win?

To arrive at a plausible explanation, we’ll need to understand the typical user.

The average user reads about 28% of the text on a webpage, spending less than a minute doing so. We don’t have much time to impress the user and nudge him/her towards engaging with the site.

How does the learning from above tie in with web design?

The control had one color theme for its header, the hero message and the CTA button. While all three were important parts of the user experience, serving different functions – the header lays out the site structure in a palatable format for a quick browse-through, the hero message is intended to clearly communicate the core value proposition and the CTA button exists to egg a visitor towards completing a particular action. By keeping a similar color theme for these three key elements, the control created a visual barrier to the user, against taking any meaningful action.

It all comes down to contrast. Our eyes are led by colors, and the perceived contrast among different elements on a page. Zero contrast equates to zero attention.

By representing the three page elements in different colors, the variation succeeded in effectively leading the visitor’s attention from one element to another, all separately perceptible.


Let me now tell you about Joe. He is hoping to get into the Australian construction industry. He read up on the prerequisites for a job in the industry and is convinced that he needs to get the training done and receive the white card.

Joe comes to know about White Card Courses and immediately looks up it upon internet and lands on the homepage.

He’s greeted with this hero message:

Get White Card Online $50.00” and below it,

Click here to Purchase

But Joe hadn’t gone there to purchase anything. Joe only wanted to do the training and get his white card. By to ‘purchase’, the CTA button tells Joe that he needs to finish another action first (in fact, there is no mention of beginning a course, at all). And what’s the action Joe’s asked to do? Part with hard-earned money, without any evidence or guarantee that he’d get his training.

Joe hesitates. Joe leaves.

And really who could blame Joe?

(except perhaps, Bad Design, The Evil)

With the variation, however, the messaging was changed to something more appropriate, something more in-line with the immediate intent of the visitor. If Joe visited the site after the change, Joe would find the below message instead:

Get White Card Online $50.00

Start Now

Joe is told exactly what he’d have hoped to listen. He could start with his course right away. Clicking on it would still lead Joe to a payment page. But Joe doesn’t mind it so much anymore, because he knows he’s clicked on “Start Now”, and is in the right direction.

Right direction, that’s all Joe ever needed out of life, and design. But I digress, as always.

Check out this kickass post from WordStream on creating effective call-to-action messaging.

And here’s another of those excellent belling-the-CTA (Oh oh, is that an almost-pun?) case studies from our archives.

Trust Badges

They simply work.

They do, especially on eCommerce sites that accept payment first and deliver later. The control page had no trust or guarantee badges leaving the credibility score pretty low for ‘White Card Courses’. In human-to-human interactions, their brains labor, crunching verbal and non-verbal cues to create a measure of credibility or trust. But on a web page, in the absence of any human element, visitors require clear reasons to trust.

The variation carried three badges, one each for guarantee (money-back), trust (recognized Australia-wide) and an assurance of quick turn around time.

Here are some more case studies that show why badges are a relatively safe bet in conversion optimization – Bag Servant (conversions up by 72%), Horloges (sales up by 41%), House of Kids (32% increase in conversions). Want more? Here’s a link to our resources section, simply filter by “Trust Badge” in the ‘element’ drop down box and select ‘case studies’ from the ‘resources’ box.

Wait, what about the 20.9% increase in conversion on the payments page? There was never a mention of any change to that page. True, and yet, the page converted 21% more than the control. Trust badges to the rescue again; more importantly, they appeared above the fold, ensuring that most visitors saw the badges before they clicked through to the payments page.

Grant concurs, on being asked why he thinks the variation won:

1. Change from a confusing heading to an actionable button

2. Easy to understand what the ‘Next Step’ is for the user (and above the fold)

3. Prominent supporting sales propositions just below the fold

So, Should You Too Test These Same Changes?

You could, and you should, if you see clear commonalities between your business and the ones that have already tried it and succeeded. But not because x y z businesses tested it and profited out of it. I think, and practically believe, that there’s no such thing as a best practice. ‘Best’ practices followed over time become common practices, and sooner more often than later, we’ll need better practices. Why not come up with them right away, instead of waiting for ‘best practices’ to go stale? There’s room for many new discoveries in the conversion optimization space.

Keep testing. Keep discovering.

Do you have conversion optimization ideas in mind that you’d want to test on your site, but feel that it could do with some brain-storming? Head over to the comments section and let us know!

You can engage with me @SharanTheSuresh, and connect with us @wingify

We’re listening!

Marketing | SaaS | Product. Loves words, people, images, and experiences.

Comments (3)

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  1. So I think that mainly the factors that contributed to the boost in conversions is the fact that you guys changed colors to white and green, giving it more contrast. In the first version, it seemed to blend easily. In addition, you guys brought up an excellent point that I actually heard from a Microsoft speaker at a conference. Basically he said, and you guys implemented this, to get rid off all anything extra around your price. The more numbers and symbols the worse. He even went on to say that if people can easily assume that the number is a price then you should think about leaving the $ off. Personally, I haven’t played around with this premise but it sounds very interesting.

  2. A color combination may be the reason, but second changes (adding “Money back guarantee, Fast turnaround) may also play a good role to increase conversion as it motivate users to purchase.

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