A/B or Not To Be

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Would that we could reduce the noise and complexity of our lives with a TV remote and dial everything down to the signal of the critical few?

In the 90’s there was this movie called “Sliding Doors”, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. THE PLOT: A British woman’s personal romance and career both hinge (without her knowing) on whether or not she catches a train. The trigger of events to come is nothing more than a sliding door; A) what her life would have been if she got into the sliding door and made the train and B) what her life would been if she didn’t. And we watch both scenarios unravel, in parallel.

“Sliding Doors” explored the idea of parallel realities in philosophical terms. What happens when we as individuals consciously choose one path over another? Door #1 or door #2 (or #10)? But in business making the wrong choice can have negative impacts to the bottom line.

Which is why if you are not an A/B organization, you are not an agile or smart organization. If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing.

A/B testing starts with the assumption that there is no truth. Using the technique of hypothesis testing, it is analogous to the US legal system, where one is innocent until proven guilty. Things are false or not false and the burden of proof resides with the accuser. As you build evidence you either reject your default position/status quo or do not reject it. Therefore in order to self-optimize, one must keep testing their assumptions and improve the outcomes iteratively.

A/B splitting is akin to consumer focus group. Different variations of content are run against a baseline control. Direct Mail campaigns were the first form of A/B, where variants of the same offer were presented to target groups, response rates measured. But on the web, it takes on an accelerated level. The web gives instantaneous feedback and allows you to experiment at zero marginal cost. When tests trend positive, A/B platforms like Google Analytics or Adobe’s Test and Target, allow you to disable the control group with one click so the content that performs best is immediately exposed to all site visitors. You can geo target, behavioral target, weather base target not just on your site but in email campaigns.

Advertisers and marketers are able to turn on a dime and make adjustments within minutes and generate significant ROI. There are so many things in life we want to do over again. That swing at bat. That curse word you hurled at your lover. With A/B you don’t have to go down the rabbit hole. Fail first, Fail fast, fail often. A/B all day every day.