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Put two products into the market and see which one does better

Monday, March 22nd, 2010 by Paul Sloane

How can you become more agile in a fast-moving market? An increasingly popular method of making quick decisions is A/B testing (or bucket testing). In its simplest form you put two versions of a product into the market simultaneously and see which one gets the better customer response. You then repeat the process by putting the winner up against another variant and trying again. Essentially you use a single-variable test several times over. Once a classic direct mail technique and now used extensively to test website response rates, marketers can use this method to check market reactions for a wide range of products and services.

For example with your website you can test small details one at a time, such as colours, offers, copy text, layouts and images. Multiple tests will show which items yield the greatest improvements. According to Wikipedia around two-thirds of web based companies use A/B testing including the likes of Amazon, BBC, Ebay – even Google and Microsoft.

You can use A/B testing to carry out market research on the fly. You can test different marketing propositions, website layouts, sales pitches and so on. You can also test different markets with the same product. The key element is to keep undertaking tests in which only one variable is changed.