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A Marketer’s Great Dilemma — Should Thou Direct to What’s Free or to What’s Paid — A/B Tested

P.S.(the pre-script one): Few days back I did a case study where adding the word “free” increased the button CTR for a company by 99.42%. And when I was looking at this test where a company eliminated the step involving “free”, they actually got a spike in their conversions. No, I am not surprised. A/B testing does question our instincts or what seems right. And a word of caution before I proceed — something that worked for one company, might or might not work for you.

The Company

EzLandlordForms is a typical example of business formed out of, “Solve a pain point. Even better, solve your own pain point!”.

Kevin, the founder, was a landlord back in 2005 when he thought of eliminating the trouble he was facing in creating the perfect lease. He launched the website EzLandlordForms, and since 2006, he along with his team has helped more than half a million landlords manage their properties with great ease. They sell all types of leases – residential, vacation, company, subleases, etc. and have hundreds of free lease forms in printable format.

The Test

To get more revenue from their online business, Brian, the Vice President of EzLandlordForms, signed up for VWO subscription. He tested a number of elements on the website to optimize it. In this case study, I’m going to talk about a test that EzLandlordForms did on their homepage, which increased their revenue per visitor by 20.4% and sales by 32.2%.

The test hypothesis was simple, yet interesting. They wanted to test whether taking the visitors directly to a paid goal from the CTA button was more valuable than a step-by-step approach of taking visitors to free forms first, and then to the purchase goal.

To test this hypothesis, they created 2 more variations of their homepage which was pitted against their original homepage. On their original homepage, the CTA button read “View Free Forms”. Since they offer a lot of printable free forms on their website, the CTA was pretty clear with its verbiage. But the problem was that it wasn’t helping them get paid conversions and account sign-up was a micro-conversion for them. In the words of Brian, “We were concerned the CTA was too indirect, and failed to push users to where they were most likely to convert.

This is how it looked:


Their hypothesis was that by sending people directly to the paid state-specific lease agreements, they could increase their sales. To test this, they created 2 variations. The first variation took them to the intermediate page, same as the control, where they could sign-up for a free account and browse the free forms. The only change in this variation was CTA button text which was changed to “Create Lease”. This, they believed was a direct way to sell visitor paid state-specific leases than asking them to browse through the free ones first.

This is how it looked:

Winning Variation

The second variation went a step further, and even though it had the same text on the CTA button “Create Lease”, it dropped the intermediate page in-between and took users directly to the lease wizard.

The Result

In this test, they tracked 3 goals:

  • Revenue per visitor
  • Purchase conversion rate
  • Free account signup conversion rate

The primary objective of the test was to push people directly to the paid product. The test was run for a duration of 2 weeks and for about 6000 visitors. Second variation, in which they dropped the intermediate step of taking visitors to browse free forms, won and increased the conversion rate of purchase goal by 32.2% and revenue per visitor by 20.4%.

Why did the Second Variation Win?

  • The value proposition offered was different in the variation than in the control. Whereas, the CTA text on control said to view forms, the CTA text on variation was more specific towards the purchase goal and asked the people to create lease.
  • The variation dropped an intermediate step of taking visitors through the free forms. This solved two problems. One, it did not distract(and confuse) people who wanted to buy a state-specific lease by showing the free forms, and two, it eliminated one step towards the purchase goal. And we all know, lesser the friction towards the conversion, higher is the conversion rate.

Let’s Talk

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this case study. Please share them in the comment box below.

P.S.(the postscript one): Please help me realize my sweet dream of getting 500 tweets on my post. If you like the post, do share it with your friends on Twitter. Thanks already! 🙂

Taruna is a Marketer at Visual Website Optimizer. She takes care of paid campaigns and is constantly on a search for interesting ways to promote VWO.

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