You know that the holidays are a special time of year. The decorations, the food, the gifts – it’s a fun time for everyone. And if you’re clever as a marketer, the holiday season can also bring in extra money for your online stores.
A really good way to achieve this is through A/B testing. Some e-commerce marketers tend to freeze any changes during the holidays because they worry about hurting their sales when there’s a lot of website traffic. But that’s actually a mistake (I’ll explain this later).
In this article, we’ll unwrap the advantages and disadvantages of holiday testing and provide tips to help businesses leverage this powerful tool to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, and gain valuable insights into user behavior.
So buckle up and get ready to learn how to make your holiday season a success.
Unwrap the Definition: What Exactly is Holiday Testing?
Holiday testing involves putting your business to the test during holiday periods to ensure everything runs smoothly when demand is at its peak.
This means simulating high traffic and usage to identify potential issues and improve your products and services accordingly.
But what makes holiday testing so important?
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in the US reached $789.4 billion in 2020 – an 8.3% increase from the previous year.
With all this money on the line, businesses need to prepare for the influx of customers and ensure their systems can handle the increased traffic.
One of the biggest goals of holiday testing is to identify issues before they become a problem, improve customer experience, and ultimately increase revenue.
For example, if an ecommerce website crashes during Black Friday, customers are likely to abandon their shopping carts and shop elsewhere, leading to lost sales and a damaged reputation.
However, once you conduct holiday testing, you’re prepared if a similar situation arises.
Naturally, holiday testing has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s talk about them in detail.
Advantages of holiday testing
The benefits of holiday a/b testing are endless. You’ll learn which products and services your customers want, which ones they don’t want, and how best to offer them to your customers. You’ll also find out what works best in terms of pricing, packaging, and promotion plans.
Increased sales and revenue
The holiday season is the busiest time of year for businesses, and if you’re not adequately prepared, you could be missing out on a lot of potential revenue.
On the other hand, when you use holiday testing, you can see:
- What your customers want
- How much are they willing to spend
- And what they might be willing to pay for your products or services.
When you finish the holiday test, you will better understand your market and the things that will help you sell more.
For example, by testing your website or mobile app’s performance during peak traffic periods, you can identify and fix any issues that may cause customers to abandon their carts. Additionally, you can reduce cart abandonment rates and increase sales by testing and improving your checkout process.
Feedback from customers
Holiday testing is a great way to ensure your customers are happy and an easy way to get customer feedback.
For instance, Uber used a two-sided feedback approach to collect customer feedback on their service. They asked both drivers and riders to rate each other and provide comments on their experience.(Source)
They also offered discounts and rewards as incentives for providing feedback.
While Uber’s feedback-collecting process wasn’t specifically a part of the holiday experimentation, you can still emulate it on holidays. It allows you to collect data from a large and diverse sample of customers visiting your website or app during a peak season.
Here are some ideas about what to ask your customers while Holiday testing:
- What kind of offers or discounts most appeal to your customers during holidays?
- What kind of design or layout is most effective for your website or app during the holidays?
- What features or functionalities are most useful or desired by your customers during holidays?
- What messages or content are most engaging or persuasive for your customers during holidays?
And holiday testing isn’t just for determining what products your customers like and dislike. It can also help you build a customer information database for future campaigns.
This means when you next launch a new product or campaign, you’ll already have an existing database of customers who’ve bought the product before and will be interested in buying again. This makes it much easier to communicate with them because they’re already used to contacting you with questions or concerns about their previous purchases.
Pro Tip: Take assistance from automated on-site survey tools to create surveys and analyze results. For example, FigPii allows you to create polls and surveys quickly and easily. You can choose from different survey types, including multiple-choice, open-ended, rating scales, and more.
Aside from surveys and polls, you can also use heatmaps, A/B testing, user testing platforms, or social media to gauge your customers’ preferences, opinions, and satisfaction with different variations of your website or app.
Enhanced brand reputation
When you run holiday tests, you can see what people think of your brand and how they respond when exposed to it. You can use this information to improve your messaging and marketing strategies in the future.
This process also helps to ensure everything runs smoothly with products and services during this period. When done correctly, holiday testing will provide a lot of useful information for both internal and external customers alike.
Insights into user preferences and behavior patterns
During the holiday season, businesses often have access to a larger pool of data due to increased traffic and sales, which comes be used to identify trends and patterns in user behavior.
For example, if you run an ecommerce site that sells toys during this time of year, you might uncover that parents tend to buy toys for their kids in late November or early December – not just at Christmas time. This can be handy information for planning promotions and marketing campaigns as well as for making decisions about which products should be featured on your site during the holidays.
Here are some more examples of how holiday testing (experimentation) can help you gain insights into user preferences and behavior patterns:
- You can test different offers or discounts (such as a percentage off, buy one get one free, free shipping, etc.) to see what’s generating more sales and revenue during holidays.
- Test different layouts or colors of your website or app to see which one creates a more positive and engaging user experience during holidays.
- Test features or functionalities (such as search filters, product recommendations, reviews, etc.) to see which helps customers find what they are looking for more easily and quickly during holidays.
- Test messages or content (such as headlines, slogans, testimonials, etc.) to see what captures customer attention and persuades them to take action during holidays.
Disadvantages of holiday testing
The advantages of holiday testing are obvious: it’s a great way to check for seasonal patterns in your business and ensure your site is up and running during the busiest time of year.
But there are some drawbacks, too. Here are some potential issues you should consider before deciding whether to conduct a holiday test:
Potential strain on resources
The bigger your company is, the more resources it has available – but even small companies might not have adequate resources during the holidays.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re hosting your website on someone else’s servers (like most blogs).
If you’re hosting yourself, you’ll need extra help from IT or development teams that aren’t normally involved with web operations – which means more time and resources spent.
Additionally, whether it’s developing new features or fixing bugs, holiday testing can distract from the regular work you need to do before the year’s end. If you’re already swamped with other projects and deadlines, adding another task may not be worth it.
You might get skewed results
The main disadvantage of holiday testing is that you might get skewed results.
If your sales are up, but it’s because of a holiday discount or promotion, you don’t know whether that increase was due to your changes or the holiday discount.
Oliver Palmer, an eCommerce growth consultant, also feels that getting skewed results could be an issue when A/B testing during seasonal periods.
“That’s because people shop differently in November and December than the rest of the year. Conversion rates go up, there’s a sense of urgency, and loads of promotions are happening (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.). Plus, customers are usually more willing to spend money. This can make it hard to use the results of holiday tests for the rest of the year.”
Risk of negative customer feedback
The problem with holiday testing is that people tend to be more critical of the products they receive during the holidays. If they love the product they received, they might give it five stars and rave about it on social media. But if they don’t like the product – even if it’s not necessarily the company’s fault – they might leave a negative review online and tell their friends about it as well.
For example, if there’s a problem with shipping, it could leave customers feeling frustrated and angry. And because they’re so busy, they may be quick to share their negative experience on social media or review sites.
This can be especially damaging for newer brands or companies trying to build consumer credibility and trust. They need happy customers more than ever at this time of year because they need those positive reviews and referrals so much more than at other times of the year.
Difficulty in predicting consumer behavior
Holiday testing doesn’t necessarily give you an accurate picture of how consumers would react to the product regularly.
Consumers may be more likely to try something new during the holidays because they want something different or because they’re looking for gifts for others.
High traffic load
When you test during peak traffic hours, there’s an increased chance that users will encounter errors while using your product or service (such as website crashes). There may also be delays in page loading times due to the high volume of requests directed at your servers simultaneously.
This can lead to skewed results and frustration among customers who may think their problems were caused by something other than a technical issue (such as poor design choices).
Unforeseen events and factors
The best way to approach holiday testing is with a plan. But there are always unforeseen events and factors that could prevent your website from operating as expected.
For example, if you’re using an external service like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel, then those services may be unavailable because of their holiday maintenance schedules.
You should always ensure that your website works without these services so that you don’t lose any data or traffic due to unforeseen issues.
Tips for successful holiday testing
With all the distractions that come with the holidays, planning ahead is essential so you’re not caught off guard by any last-minute issues.
Here are some tips to help ensure your holiday testing goes smoothly:
Proper planning and preparation
Make sure you have everything you need before the holidays start.
You should know your responsibilities and how much time you need to complete them. If something doesn’t work, don’t wait until after the holidays to fix it – do it now so that it doesn’t affect your users or their experiences during this important time of year.
Here’s everything you need to prepare yourself for successful holiday testing:
- Have enough inventory to meet customer demand without running out of stock or turning away customers who want to purchase items.
- Train your staff on using the new software or system you plan to test during the holiday season.
- Have an emergency plan for any problems that may arise during testing – such as an unexpected glitch in software or system errors – and ensure all staff members can access this information quickly if needed.
- Prepare yourself emotionally for the stress of working during the holiday season, especially when testing a new system or application with live customers interacting with it for the first time during busy times like Black Friday weekend or Cyber Monday deals promotions week.
Prepare for any new changes or requirements that might come up in the next few weeks. They’re likely coming at a fast pace, and they’re probably going to be last-minute changes.
It’s best to have someone double-check your work before implementing anything new or changing anything major.
Run tests on more minor holidays.
Running tests on major holidays is not always a good idea. You don’t want to be testing in the middle of Black Friday or Christmas Day because there will be too much activity on your site. Instead, run your tests before or after these big days to better understand what works for your audience.
M. Jamal, who leads on-page optimization, creative and growth at Clickmakers, also mentions,
“If tests are done on prior holidays (smaller holidays), the win can usually carry over. For example, testing $$ discount vs. x % off during Mother’s Day OR testing unlocking an extra % off with pop-up vs. in-cart with countdown OR gift with purchase vs. buy-more-save-more.. this, plus page layout wins… can usually carry well to a bigger sale like BFCM (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).”
Jamal adds, “Another element of testing smaller holidays is having a better feel for email/text sequence & frequency. e.g., Early Access list vs. Launch Day / upping FOMO with extra text on the last day vs. extending the sale by one day, etc.”
Continuous monitoring and adaptation
During the holidays, monitor your site’s performance 24/7 to ensure you’re aware of any issues as soon as they happen and can address them quickly.
Consider adding extra resources such as load balancers, content delivery networks (CDNs), cloud-based firewalls, and cloud-based monitoring services.
Holiday testing is also a good time for adaptive live testing: automatically adjusting your tests based on what’s happening in production. When more users are online than usual, your test should include more users to provide better coverage. And when there are fewer users online than usual, reduce the number of tests so that they run faster and still provide enough coverage.
Consumers use a variety of channels to make purchases during the holiday season, including online, mobile, and in-store. You also need to test across channels like email and web pages to ensure that people who click through from each source will get a good experience.
If a user clicks through from Facebook, for example, but is met with a 404 error page when they try to return to Facebook, you risk losing that user forever.
Businesses should conduct multichannel testing to understand how customers interact with their brand across different channels and identify opportunities for improvement.
Using A/B testing software tools
Another valuable tip for successful holiday testing is incorporating A/B testing software tools into your strategy.
These tools allow you to test multiple variables at once. You can also set up conversion goals and track the results in real time.
For example, FigPii provides real-time data on customer behavior and feedback, allowing businesses to quickly identify issues and opportunities for improvement. These tools are also user-friendly and easy to navigate, making them accessible to businesses with varying levels of technical expertise.
Here are some other benefits of using A/B testing software tools like FigPii for holiday testing:
- Data-driven decisions: A/B testing software tools provide customer behavior and feedback data, allowing you to make data-driven decisions on optimizing your website or app for holiday sales and conversions.
- Cost-effective: These tools can be more cost-effective than hiring an external testing agency or conducting in-house testing. This is especially true for smaller businesses with limited resources.
- Improved conversions: You can identify changes that lead to improved conversions, including changes in website layout, product positioning, or pricing.
- Flexibility: A/B testing software tools allow businesses to test different variables and iterate quickly based on customer feedback and behavior.
Preparing for high-traffic volumes
Another crucial tip for successful holiday testing is to prepare for high-traffic volumes.
You’ll likely experience a surge in website traffic and transactions during the holiday season. This can strain their servers, leading to slow load times and crashes, resulting in lost sales and frustrated customers.
To avoid this, prepare your infrastructure to handle high-traffic volumes. This includes:
- Load testing: Load testing involves simulating heavy traffic loads to test your site’s ability to handle them. This will help you identify potential bottlenecks and optimize their infrastructure to handle high-traffic volumes.
- Scaling infrastructure: This can involve upgrading servers, increasing bandwidth, and optimizing your website or app code to reduce load times.
- Caching: Caching involves storing frequently accessed data on a local server to reduce load times. This can help improve your website or app performance during high-traffic periods.
- Content delivery networks (CDNs): CDNs are networks of servers that distribute content across multiple locations, reducing load times and the like.
Holiday Testing: The Gift that Keeps on Giving (If Done Right)!
Holiday testing is a crucial component of a successful holiday marketing campaign. By testing their website or app before the holiday rush, businesses can identify potential issues and make necessary changes to improve user experience, increase sales, and gain valuable insights into consumer behavior.
However, it’s essential to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of holiday testing to ensure businesses make informed decisions about their testing strategies. With proper planning, preparation, and execution, businesses can leverage the power of holiday testing to achieve their sales and marketing goals during the holiday season.