The Wonder of A/B Testing

I hear one question a lot, or variations of it, “How do I know which products or services are best to focus on for a promotion?”

The answer is simple: A/B testing.apples comparison

One marketing philosophy we espouse is the concept of less is more. Focus on promoting only a few key products, and treat the rest of your offers as add-on sales. It allows you to get really effective at selling those focus items. But this only works well if you promote the right sales item(s). This brings us back to A/B testing, sometimes called split-testing.

Simply put, A/B testing puts one idea against another. It’s a winner takes all battle. You may test price points, products, design concepts, sales pitches, or sales staff.

In the online world, this usually applies to web pages or email pitches. However, the experimentation model is not unique to internet sales.

Restaurants do it, and so can you!

Successful restaurants are particularly adept at determining which menu items sell best. Perhaps it’s because selling perishables (fresh food) demands the intel, or because they’re in such a competitive industry.

Obviously, restaurant managers can compare daily sales totals of menu items, and most restaurant point-of-sale software lets you dive into pretty specific sales numbers, even providing hourly breakdowns. As a business owner and former bookkeeper, I’m familiar with reviewing a variety of sales reports. All other factors being equal, numbers don’t lie. A/B testing is an objective metric you can’t ignore.

One additional way that restaurants A/B test is to have a “special of the day.” This allows them to promote one item one day, and one item the next, and then review which item sells better.

That is a classic A/B test. Restaurateurs can very quickly determine which dish is preferred by their customers. An additional option allows them to tinker with pricing strategy, but that’s a different discussion.

Food menus evolve this way. If an item isn’t selling, it quickly gets dropped. If an item sells well, it remains on the menu, becomes a highlight in the menu design, gets promoted even more (to drive more traffic), or possibly the price can be bumped up.

My point is that (successful) restaurants are some of the best A/B testers around. Their business models require large start-up capital, their industry is highly competitive, and their customers can be quite fickle. So they must adapt. A/B testing makes them more efficient. The methodology applies to any business though, so no matter what industry you’re in, you can employ A/B testing too!

So, if you’re not sure which product or service to focus a sales campaign on, A/B test a few before committing your whole campaign budget. Doing so will garner better results for your marketing resources.

Now, if you’re not sure which of your items to test first, I have some A/B tests to help you with that!


Hopefully you found this article useful and will share it with your business contacts. If you have questions about anything discussed here, feel free to contact the writer directly.