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What is Multivariate Testing (MVT)

A Multivariate Test or MVT is a test where we test individual page elements, instead of whole pages. In Multivariate Testing, you select different elements of the website page or landing page on which you want to run the test. Different variations of these individual elements are then created and combined to create different versions of the page. Traffic is then distributed amongst those versions to find out which version gets the highest conversion rate, generates higher number of leads or generates higher revenue.

Let’s imagine, for the sake of convenience, a pizza store webpage having just 2 elements – a headline and a button. Let us suppose that you have 3 versions – 1 control and 2 variations – of each element. In Multivariate Testing, the 3 versions of the 2 page elements will be combined in every which way possible, thus creating (3 X 3) = 9 unique combinations. These 9 versions will then be tested against each other to determine which one gets crowned as the winner with the highest conversion rate.

A graphical representation of a MVT with the variation having 20% conversion rate crowned as the winner

Differences between A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing

  • In A/B Testing, two or more versions of a WHOLE WEBPAGE are compared to see which one performs better. Whereas, in Multivariate Testing, different versions of INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS are created, which are combined by the testing tool into all possible combinations to find out the winning variation.

An A/B Test with 2 versions, one having 20% conversion rate and the other having 25% conversion rate. Traffic is split evenly between the two.

A MVT with 2 versions each of 2 page elements, thus creating a total of 4 versions. The versions have conversion rates of 5%, 5.5%, 7% and 4% respectively.

  •  A/B Testing is most effective when you have fleshed out ideas for different versions of a page and want to test them against each other for conversion rate. Instead, if you just want to optimize your existing webpage or landing page without investing a significant amount in redesign, a Multivariate Test is the best bet for you.
  • If you go by the A/B Testing route, you may not arrive at the perfectly optimized webpage at the first iteration. You need to constantly run and tweak your tests before you get there. A Multivariate Test, though if done right, can find the optimal design for your webpage at the first instance itself.
  • One limitation of Multivariate Testing is that, unlike A/B Testing, you need a significant amount of traffic on your website to get proper results from the test. If we go back to the pizza store webpage example, an A/B Test would have created 3 different versions of the page. Compare that with 9 version for Multivariate Test. Thus, your traffic would need to be divided into 9 parts as against 3 for A/B Test. Thus the amount of traffic should be high in MVT so that each version gets a significant amount of traffic. Otherwise, the test result may turn to be statistically insignificant.

In spite of the differences, A/B and Multivariate Testing are really two sides of the same coin. Both exist to help marketers improve conversion rates for their websites and ultimately, drive growth as well as revenue. A good tester will run both these tests to achieve different goals and fulfil different requirements. VWO offers the world’s easiest A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing tools which have been used by 3700+ customers in setting up more than 300,000 testing and personalization campaigns viewed by over 1.5 billion visitors all over the world. In addition to the above tools, VWO also provides options for Split URL Testing, heatmaps, usability testing, and much more.

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