5 min read
May 19, 2021

What is A/B Testing in Digital Marketing? A Startup Founder's Guide

Learn why more than half of startups love A/B testing—and how your own business can thrive using these tools

Amanda KennedySenior Content Writer

When GetApp surveyed startups in February 2021 about their marketing tech stacks, respondents cited A/B testing as the most effective software tool in their toolkit.

For startups, A/B testing was the number one software tool used; 62% of startups found A/B testing tools very effective.

62% of startups we surveyed found A/B testing tools very effective

However, when it comes to A/B testing, many startups aren’t quite sure what exactly to test, or what tools to use. That’s where we can help. 

A/B testing allows you to test your hypotheses about website changes, rather than only going off your gut. Since your peers are already doing this, it’s crucial that your business starts using data to back your decisions. Otherwise, you may not be able to keep up with the competition.

When used properly, A/B testing can help you better understand your particular users—what motivates them, how they prefer to consume information, and what incentivizes them to convert on your website. While analytics can tell you what actions users are taking on your site, an A/B test can tell you how to improve the user experience. 

Grab your coffee, and settle in as we look at what A/B testing is and how it can make or break your startup.

What is A/B testing in digital marketing?

In digital marketing, you can use A/B testing to see how features on your website perform compared to other features, such as certain text on call-to-action (CTA) buttons or image placement.

In an A/B test, you use a tool to feed half of a certain number of users one option (say, putting a CTA at the top), then feed the other half another version (such as putting the CTA last). This kind of split test is similar to multivariate testing (which adds more elements to the test; e.g., four or five instead of two).

How to get started with A/B testing: Find a testing tool

Once you know what A/B testing (or split testing) is, it's time to talk about what you need to get started. If you want to do A/B testing, you’re going to need a testing tool. 

Chances are one of your existing tools already enables A/B testing. For instance, many email marketing platforms include this as a capability. However, if A/B testing is something you plan to do regularly, you might want to get a dedicated tool. 

Because budget is often a major consideration for early-stage startups, you may want to check out Google Optimize, a free tool mentioned by one of the startup owners we spoke with. Many other tools exist, so ask your peers for recommendations. 

Interested in seeing what tools are rated highly by other software users? Check out reviews in GetApp’s directory of A/B testing software.

Test your way to success: Examples of A/B testing in action

Once you have your tools in place, you might wonder what exactly you should test.

This is the most difficult part of A/B testing, and it helps to put yourself in an analytical mindset to figure it out. Here's some guidance on how to approach A/B testing, and how to determine the right questions to ask.

A key place to start A/B testing is the most valuable area of your website. This could include:

  • Funnels

  • Most valuable traffic pages

  • Most visited page or landing page

  • Pain points or friction points

Once you have a place on your site identified, you can figure out what exactly you want to test. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • CTA buttons: color, copy, location on screen

  • Navigation: labels, design, order

  • Timing: day of the week and time for email delivery  

  • Ad copy: word choice, headers

Content experiment: A/B testing page copy in Convertize

Content experiment: A/B testing page copy in Convertize

When we talked to Saman Mehryar, CEO and founder of the startup ChatterFox, he said A/B testing was incredibly helpful for his startup.

“We did most testing with our sales funnel, specifically. We tested things like the titles of the sale page and offer page, as well as which offer page graphic design performs better.”

Saman Mehryar, CEO of ChatterFox

Because they also tested different price points for their service, Mehrar was able to see a direct increase in his startup's profit margins thanks to A/B testing.

Check out more benefits of A/B testing in our article: The Benefits of A/B Testing Tools for eCommerce.

Accelerate success (or failure) with A/B testing

A/B testing may take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of things you can discover business insights that help you increase conversions and—ultimately—your bottom line. Or, it may allow you to fail fast and move on.

Even though startup leaders don’t want to think about failure, a Harvard Business School study found that startups that used A/B testing on their website accelerated their growth or failure. 

That might sound a little daunting, but it's important to remember that customer demand is crucial for your startup. If there isn’t a market to support your idea, it can actually be better to fail quickly so you can move on to the next thing, faster. On the flip side, if you find quick success, you can more easily identify what works and do more of that.

If you’re ready to get started with A/B testing and want to browse tools and reviews, check out GetApp's A/B testing software directory.

Round out your marketing tech stack

A/B testing is simply one tool in your marketing tech stack. If you’re interested in how you can round out your stack to increase your user base, check out these other guides for startups: 


GetApp’s 2021 Marketing Technology Survey was conducted February 18-25, 2021 among 238 respondents in the U.S. to learn more about the use of marketing technology tools by startups and small businesses. Respondents were screened for leadership positions at startups in healthcare, IT services, marketing/CRM, retail/eCommerce, software/web development, or AI/ML.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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