In marketing, multivariate testing or multi-variable testing techniques apply statistical hypothesis testing on multi-variable systems, typically consumers on websites. Techniques of multivariate statistics are used.
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In internet marketing, multivariate testing is a process by which more than one component of a website may be tested in a live environment. It can be thought of in simple terms as numerous A/B tests performed on one page at the same time. A/B tests are usually performed to determine the better of two content variations; multivariate testing uses multiple variables to find the ideal combination. The only limits on the number of combinations and the number of variables in a multivariate test are the amount of time it will take to get a statistically valid sample of visitors and computational power.
Multivariate testing is usually employed in order to ascertain which content or creative variation produces the best improvement in the defined goals of a website, whether that be user registrations or successful completion of a checkout process (that is, conversion rate). Dramatic increases can be seen through testing different copy text, form layouts and even landing page images and background colours. However, not all elements produce the same increase in conversions, and by looking at the results from different tests, it is possible to identify those elements that consistently tend to produce the greatest increase in conversions.
Testing can be carried out on a dynamically generated website by setting up the server to display the different variations of content in equal proportions to incoming visitors. Statistics on how each visitor went on to behave after seeing the content under test must then be gathered and presented. Outsourced services can also be used to provide multivariate testing on websites with minor changes to page coding. These services insert their content to predefined areas of a site and monitor user behavior.
In a nutshell, multivariate testing can be seen as allowing website visitors to vote with their clicks for which content they prefer and will stand the most chance of their proceeding to a defined goal. The testing is transparent to the visitor with all commercial solutions capable of ensuring that each visitor is shown the same content on every visit.
Some websites benefit from constant 24/7 continuous optimization as visitor response to creatives and layouts differ by time of day/week or even season.
Multivariate testing is currently an area of high growth in internet marketing as it helps website owners to ensure that they are getting the most from the visitors arriving at their site. Areas such as search engine optimization and pay per click advertising bring visitors to a site and have been extensively used by many organisations but multivariate testing allows internet marketeers to ensure that visitors are being shown the right offers, content and layout to convert them to sale, registration or the desired action once they arrive at the website.
The second principal approach used does not require page tagging. By establishing a DNS-proxy or hosting within a website's own datacenter, it is possible to intercept and process all web traffic to and from the site undergoing testing, insert variants and monitor visitor response. In this case, all logic sits on the server rather than browser-side, and after initial DNS changes are made, no further technical involvement is required from the website point of view. SiteSpect is known to employ this method of implementation.
Multivariate testing can also be applied to email body content and mobile web pages.
In addition to testing the efficacy of various creative/content executions on a website, the principles of multivariate testing can and often are used to test various offer combinations. Examples of this are testing various price points, purchase incentives, premiums, trial periods or other similar purchase incentives both individually and in combination with each other. The value of this is that marketers (both traditional and online) can use multivariate testing principles online to quickly ascertain and predict the effectiveness of offers without going through the more traditional multivariate testing methods which take significantly more time and money (focus groups, telephone surveys, etc.).
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Statistical testing relies on design of experiments. Several methods in use for multivariate testing include:
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