What Is Split Testing and Why It's Essential to eCommerce Success

What Is Split Testing and Why It's Essential to eCommerce Success

Yusuf Shurbaji
Apr 14, 2023
min read


  • Split testing is a comparison process where two versions of a web page or app feature are tested to see which performs better. The main objective is to use the gathered data to make long-term improvements to a variety of website metrics.
  • The split testing process begins with a hypothesis and involves running two page versions simultaneously to split traffic between them. This allows operators to collect targeted data on the performance of each variation.
  • Common elements that can undergo split testing include web pages, CTAs, headlines, buttons, product descriptions, pricing, and subject lines. More complex alterations involving multiple elements are classified as multivariate testing.
  • Split testing helps to identify what works best in accomplishing the desired outcome, such as improving the performance of webpage elements, thereby allowing the construction of stronger components and a better page.
  • Specific applications of split testing include conversion rate optimization and testing click-through rates of different webpage versions. By providing actionable data, split testing can help improve conversion rates and overall website calibration.


What works and what doesn’t work for your ecommerce enterprise?

That question is probably the most important one you can ask yourself to run a more effective business model. But this seemingly simple question leads to a more complicated one: how do you even find out for sure?

It can be hard to gauge which website projects are driving core KPIs versus hurting them. That’s where split testing can help. 

Learn what split testing is and why it’s essential to ecommerce success with Prismfly so you confidently work on what you know is effective for your online business.

What Is Split Testing?

Split testing is the process of comparing two versions of a web page or app feature to determine which one performs better.

Which works better, this web page layout or that web page layout? Split testing allows people to generate conclusive data for each option tested. The overall goal of split testing is to use the collected data to make lasting improvements to any number of website metrics.

How Does Split Testing Work?

Like any experimentation process, split testing starts with a hypothesis: for instance, would changing the headline on your landing page boost performance? 

With a starting hypothesis determined, site operators create two headlines: a control and a variable — as you’d use in an experiment. 

The site operator would initiate the split testing by running the two pages simultaneously, splitting the traffic between them. 

Now that the original version and the new version are up and running, the site operators can gather targeted data on how each iteration of the headline performs compared to the other. 

Split testing tools can measure any elements of your ecommerce operation. 

Split testing is a methodology that comparatively measures performance between two or more distinct elements. If it affects your ecommerce performance, you can uncover valuable data on that performance through split testing.

Here are some of the website elements Prismfly conducts testing on for our clients:

  • Web pages
  • CTAs
  • Headlines
  • Buttons
  • Product descriptions
  • Pricing
  • Subject lines
Split Testing vs. A/B Testing

CRO jargon can be confusing. Case in point: split testing and A/B testing are two terms whose differences are difficult to distinguish.

Split testing and A/B testing are terms often used interchangeably, and in most cases, their interchangeable use is of little consequence. 

However, the nuances that distinguish them mean A/B testing might better describe this process in specific contexts. 

Split testing refers to splitting traffic equally across variations. A/B testing and multivariate testing are both types of split tests. The difference is that A/B testing splits traffic between two variations, whereas multivariate testing splits traffic across more than two variations. 

The differences between split testing and A/B testing are minor. These terms effectively mean the same thing. It’s just a matter of their specific role in the overall methodology.

What Is Multivariate Testing?

Multivariate testing is another variation of the split testing methodology. In this case, multivariate testing describes cases where more than one element is altered between the two iterations tested.

For instance, split testing two web pages with altered page designs, headlines, and color schemes would be more accurately described as multivariate testing — multiple elements are tested simultaneously.

A/B testing is a valuable method to determine and assess actionable performance metrics between two different variations of a website because it zeroes in on elements that impact that performance. 

Multivariate testing eschews the precision of conventional A/B testing in favor of a more comprehensive approach.

A/B testing a website element by element can become a drawn-out process. Multivariate approaches speed things up at the expense of a less detailed summary of the factors contributing to site performance.

Why Run Split Tests on Your Site?

So, split testing is a reliable method that helps you analyze website performance metrics.

How does that actually help you?

Split tests show you the effect elements have on your web page performance. Depending on what you test for, split testing will tell you what works better towards accomplishing the desired outcome, helping you build stronger elements and a better page.

Here are a few specific instances of how and why you should run split tests on your site:

  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Compare different versions of your site faster
  • Test the click-through rate of different versions of a webpage
Conversion Rate Optimization

If you’re in ecommerce, one of the most important objectives you want your site to accomplish is conversion.

Conversion describes when a website visitor takes a desired action. Considering that your webpage exists to drive action for your business, conversion is a massive part of your website and your ecommerce enterprise overall.

Your conversion rate measures the number of desired actions, or goal achievements, generated by a site divided by the number of visitors to the site — your traffic. Conversion rate optimization is the improvement of your pre-defined KPIs.

Running split tests provides you with actionable data that can help you improve your conversion rate and calibrate your site overall.

Compare Different Versions of Your Site, Faster

The approaches you can take with your ecommerce site are nearly limitless. When you’re already under pressure to run a functional business, building a site you can be confident in is an additional pressure split testing can mitigate.

Split testing removes the guesswork in your web development. Without split tests, you don’t have the data to make informed, on-site decisions that yield results.

Alternatively, split tests provide you active data on two different versions of your site simultaneously; remember, the split in split testing means that your traffic is being separated and sent to two different versions of your site.

The strength of split tests is that they provide actionable, comparative data in a single process. Instead of testing one version of your site and then the other, split tests deliver you feedback in one go.

Test the Click-Through Rate of Different Versions of a Webpage

Another crucial metric that split tests can help you improve is your click-through rate.

Your click-through rate measures the effectiveness of your overall marketing campaign or sales funnel. For instance, it can display how well an email, a landing page, or a sales page performs. The click-through rate for a landing page is the number of click-throughs divided by the number of page impressions.

Understandably, a low click-through is a problem for your ecommerce business; the fewer visitors clicking through your landing page to your sales page, the fewer customers you’ll have. 

Click-through rate measures visitor action and can be obtained by conclusive analysis from split tests.

Testing two different versions of a webpage based on click-through rate gives you actionable data on what works and what doesn’t, data you can use to make lasting improvements to your funnel and see more revenue.

What User Behavior Should You Measure in a Split Test?

In the end, a split test reveals user behavior on your page.

Where are they clicking? What are the heat maps on two different versions of your website? This information helps you dial in on what you want from visitors: taking the desired action on the page.

What alterations can you make with a split test that gives you an actionable, comparative measurement of user behavior? 

Let’s explore on-page elements on your webpage, from the general to the specific, to see how tinkering with them can affect user behavior and drive the actions they take:

  • Page design
  • CTA workflows
  • Button colors and copy
Page Design

The page design significantly impacts your page performance because page design refers to a vast number of crucial elements. Here are just a few elements that contribute to your overall page design:

  • Graphic design
  • UX design
  • Page authoring
  • UI design
  • On-page SEO

Your page design is a comprehensive element that pertains to visual and functional components. Your graphic design can emphasize your brand authority and build the confidence that drives action; elegant, seamless UX design can promote user interactivity that brings you results.

Adjusting these elements between two-page iterations of a split test can tell how your page design informs your page performance. 

Does your logo have an impact? What UI drives more desired action? Split testing your page’s design can give you conclusive answers to these questions.

CTA Workflows

Your call to action is your appeal to visitors and the moment when they either take your desired action or not. 

Ecommerce brands hoping to improve their click-through rate or up their conversions should go to their page CTAs to see results. CTAs are one of the most critical elements on your page.

Target an element inextricably linked to page performance to strengthen your page's CTA workflow. 

Split test results on your CTA workflow’s wording or visual design at checkout give you crucial data on what you can do to drive more actions on your page — that means more clicks and more sales for your business.

Let’s examine a specific element in a CTA workflow that demonstrates how specific split tests can be: button colors.

Button Colors

In general, buttons are a page’s means for users to take action — they’re deeply linked with your page's CTAs. Split testing your buttons can generate compelling data, even the button color.

Plenty of evidence suggests color can impact our behavior. Though it may sound like a minor detail, there is plenty of good reason to give pause before you settle on choosing your button colors. 

Are you torn between hues of blue for your final call-to-action button? Split-test your button colors to see which produces better results. No matter what you’re adjusting — big or small details — split tests give you answers that help you make the right decision.

What If Your Site Has Low Traffic? 

Because website traffic is essential to split test data generation, low traffic on your site may appear to be an issue.

While a low-traffic site can limit your sample size, you can still glean important data with statistical significance from split tests. 

For example, targeting elements that have a significant impact on your site, like your CTA, ensures that you’re getting the most critical data from the traffic you get. 

Of course, implementing baseline strategies that improve your traffic will help you in the long run.

Split Testing Works — Try It Out Today

The beauty of split testing is that, while simple, it is effective. Choose whatever element you seek to improve and see how major or minor alterations can impact your results. 

To become profitable in your ecommerce enterprise, you can’t afford to waste time speculating on what may or may not affect your performance metrics. Split testing’s conclusive and actionable data gives you a clear way forward.

Split test your way to profitability. Connect with Prismfly; we drive revenue for ecommerce brands through CRO, full-stack development, and user experience and interface design.