What to Test – Part 9

Welcome to the latest edition of our new weekly blog series, What to Test. Each week, we will introduce a new test idea. We’ll explain why it’s important to test it, what you might learn, how to carry out the test, and what to measure in order to determine a winner. Last week we tested Homepage Images.

The Test = Promotions


Testing different promotions is an essential part of the job if you’re a marketer. Discounts and special offers are key ways to generate sales. And it’s not enough to think you know what will work or stick to what you’ve done in the past. Good marketers are constantly testing different offers to find what works best and generates the most revenue.

There are a wide variety of different offers that you can test, but I will name a few of the ones you should think about starting with here.

Straight discounts are when you offer people a certain amount or percentage off. Discounts tied to quantity force people to spend a certain amount in order to save money. Free shipping, either on all purchases or purchases over a certain dollar amount, are a great way to sell physical goods online. Buy one get one is another example of a quantity discount. Free trials allow your customers to try your product without making a commitment and pay later.

Each of these promotions will create a different level of response from your prospective customers. Some will work at driving more traffic. Some will work at creating more sales. And some will work to create higher order values for each sale.

It’s important to test in order to know which offer, presented in the right way, generates the highest return.


Testing promotions can be done in a number of ways. If you have software that allows you to create different versions of your website and split visitors between them, you can test multiple promotions at once. Email marketing would also allow you to split your lists and send different offers to different people.

But if testing multiple offers and measuring them simultaneously does not work for you, can you still test different offers consecutively and learn which attracts more people and more customers. The key is to isolate what visitors and sales come from that specific offer that you would not have otherwise gotten. This can be measured with promotional codes or distinct landing and order pages.

Remember that it’s not just about which offer works best. You should also be testing the way in which you display or announce the offer. The placement of the promotion on your website, the email you use to announce it to your customer list, and the ads you run to promote the special should all be considered part of the test.

Anything to add? As always, use the comments below or Twitter #whattotest to keep the conversation going!