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A/B Testing VS. Multivariate Testing: Strengths And Limitations For Ecommerce Websites

Ecommerce websites are meant to make money. Which elements generated most “Add to Cart” clicks, and which design parts resulted in most successful order completions, ecommerce businesses improve their conversion rates by revealing these facts.

The online customer attention is shifting quickly on the ecommerce website and the web design gets limited time and little opportunity to give a favorable impression. Therefore, that’s crucial to optimize various forms of web content from time to time.

There are two most popular testing methods used on ecommerce websites. A/B test that is the simple form of testing, and Multivariate test that is relatively complex testing method.

How Does A/B Test Perform?

A/B test, as the name itself implies, examines version A of a web page against the version B of the same web page to measure which one performs best based on the selected metrics.

On ecommerce websites, mostly, the checkout page is responsible for the conversions and improving sales. The first step is to determine the part that needs improvement. In second step, you will determine the type of change to increase conversions, like the changes can be on headings (size, color, text), text (size, appearance), Images (size, placement), or call-to-action button (size, color, text, placement). You will get two versions of the same page, A is the original and B is with the proposed changes. The test splits web traffic on both versions to know visitors' actions and identify the winner version that yields high conversion rate.

A/B testing is designed to check overall design and determines the success of an ecommerce web design as a whole. A simple A/B testing uses fewer versions of web pages, mostly 2 but can be up to 3 or 4, to find out which combination of changes leads to more conversions.

When to Opt for A/B Test?

A/B testing gives results in a short time as it involves 2 variations of web design to get the effective version. If any ecommerce website doesn’t have lot of traffic, it should prefer using A/B testing.

A/B is preferred when the ecommerce web design needs some large scale changes A/B testing is meant for major radical changes to the web pages to completely revamp the web page, like if the ecommerce website wants to check two landing pages showing different offers or needs to test two checkout webpage designs with different colors of “Buy” button.

How Does Multivariate Test Perform?

Multivariate is pretty useful, when an ecommerce business wants to redesign the elements of their page based on the data revealing which combinations have significant impact on the conversion rate.

If you are considering changing multiple elements of the webpage, then Multivariate testing will work as the metrics used in MV tools can test multiple versions of the pages by checking different variations on the pages.

Multivariate testing is reserved to measure the effectiveness of various elements in a single web page. The metrics used in Multivariate tools test each element individually. For example, if you want to test 3 headers, 4 headlines, 2 product descriptions, and 3 different colors of “Buy Now” buttons on the same page, you will need multivariate testing to know the effects of variations of these elements on the same page. In this scenario:

3 Headers X 4 Headlines X 2 Product descriptions X 3 “Buy Now” colors = 72 combinations.

The more elements you include in your test, the more combinations they will form and it will, obviously, need more time and visitors to test.

When to Opt for Multivariate Test?

The multivariate test is used to analyze which element of the web page mostly influences the conversion goals. Multivariate testing is ideal to improve and optimize the existing web design with refine changes. For example, if the landing page contains multiple elements, like headline, textual content, image, and call-to-action buttons and it is not known which element is influencing the conversion rate mostly. The metrics used in the Multivariate testing tools will provide detailed data and reports about the influential parts of the page.

In Multivariate testing, the traffic is split between numerous different versions of the page to check which combination yields the highest conversion rate.


The main decisive factor when selecting from A/B and Multivariate tests is the traffic on ecommerce website as the main difference between A/B and Multivariate testing is the volume of traffic required to perform the tests. As the number of combinations are high in a Multivariate test, and it can go up to tens or hundreds of versions, it clearly means the test will take long time and huge volume of traffic to produce some meaningful results, whereas in A/B testing there can be maximum three to four versions and it quickly gives accurate statistics determining the winner design.

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