As we enter the 4th quarter of the year, companies around the world are readying their marketing campaigns, their best creative, and their much anticipated end-of-year promotions. Retailers are gearing up to grab the attention of shoppers, who, in the months of November and December, are more likely to pull the trigger on their shopping carts than any other point in the year.

The holiday season holds the promise of 3 little letters, and it’s not the OOOs you’ll be seeing in your inbox. C-level execs everywhere will be scanning their year-end performance reports and checking it twice to see if their ROI was naughty or nice.

According to Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast, retail sales are likely to increase between 4% and 6% in 2022, and eCommerce is forecasted to grow between 12.8% and 14.3%. But, with a pending recession and inflation at an all time high, this year’s holiday shopping season is predicted to be as unpredictable as ever. In preparation, retailers are paying extra careful attention to their return on ad spend and looking for efficiencies wherever possible to target their ideal customer and maximize their return.

As companies look for financial wins in these uncertain times, there are three other little letters that often get overlooked during this busy time of year, and CRO, conversion rate optimization, may just be your ticket to maximizing your ROI this holiday season.

Why You Shouldn’t Put Your A/B Testing on Ice During The Holidays

At a time when a consumer’s attention is constantly being pulled in a million different directions, it’s more important than ever to make every effort to convert that attention when you have it. While A/B testing may seem like just one more thing added on to your marketing team’s plate this holiday season, it may also be one of the most impactful.  

You will often hear of companies implementing a “code freeze” over the holiday season, which typically means pausing any web development and design changes until after the new year. This is done out of fear of introducing new bugs or negatively impacting performance going into peak shopping season. This is understandable, but not a reason to forgo testing completely!

When preparing for the holidays, the landscape for running A/B tests is arguably better than at any other point in the year, as people are shopping with greater intent to buy. This makes it the perfect time to test and iterate on your conversion optimization strategy.

3 Reasons To Ramp Up CRO Testing in Time for The Holidays:


1. Fresh Eyes That Are Looking to Buy

Retailers will see an increase in new visitors navigating their website and product offerings for the first time. This is an opportunity to track behavior and understand how new visitors engage with your site. Where are they going first? What are they clicking most? And where are they bouncing? The holiday season is a great time to make use of heat mapping, scroll mapping, and click tracking tools to see how your visitors interact with your content.

2. Prepare for Next Year’s Holiday!

Yes, we said it. With this year’s holiday shopping season upon us, it’s time to prepare for next year. 

How will you ever know if you’re getting the most out of your hard-planned holiday promotions if you don’t test variations? And next year, when traffic to the site is at its peak, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready with what you know works best. Remember, this year’s learnings are next year’s earnings.

3. High Conversion Rates = High ROI

The holiday season is one of the few times a year where a small increase in conversion rate can have an exponential impact on your business. With more shoppers and higher average order values, a 0.1% increase in conversion rate could mean 10x the ROI.

Now is not the time to sit on your laurels and hope that what you’ve been doing all year will continue to work just because traffic is up. You need to be constantly testing and iterating on your conversion optimization strategy to ensure that you are getting the most out of every holiday shopper.

What Are the Downfalls of A/B Testing Over the Holidays?

The same reasons for testing over the holiday season can alternatively be seen as reasons for not testing. For example, an increase in visitors to your site that are motivated to convert is great, but it also means that visitors are so motivated to convert, that they may be less likely to be persuaded or dissuaded by the user experience of a website. Could it be that users are likely to persist through friction they encounter on a website, that they may not put up with at other points in the year?

In this case, your user sample is affected by external factors that are outside of your control and this makes it difficult to attribute any positive conversion rate increases to your test variations with UX changes. For this reason, we recommend saving any major UI/UX redesign changes for early in the new year.

So, what SHOULD you be testing this holiday season?

The Best Types of A/B Tests to Run Over the Holidays:

The two biggest differentiators for websites during this time tend to be around their promotion strategy and their ability to convey trustworthiness to potential customers.

1. Discounts, Free Shipping, and Dollar Thresholds

Shoppers are looking to convert, but that doesn’t mean they won’t shop around for the best deal available. It’s important to test what thresholds make your offerings competitive enough to drive more conversions. Some examples:

  • Testing site-wide percentage discounts. Is a 10% markdown enough? Or does it take 15% to seal the deal? 
  • Free shipping thresholds. Are shoppers willing to spend $100 with a free shipping incentive? Or does a free-shipping threshold of $75 have a significantly higher conversion rate?
  • Dollar thresholds for discounts. Similar to free shipping, how much are shoppers willing to spend for what percentage discount. Spend $50 to get 10% off, or $100 to get 25%?
  • Shipping options and return policy. Test making your options and flexibility more visible. 

According to a 2022 holiday shopping report conducted by Coveo, one in four U.S. and U.K. shoppers (42%) explicitly said that they will leave a site if shipping options are limited. Additionally, 35% of respondents said they are turned off by restrictive returns policies.

2. Social Proof, Authenticity, and Trustworthiness

The holiday season is when people are looking to buy gifts for people they care about (in most cases). This means that they’re not just looking for a good deal, but also products that will truly make the recipient happy. In this case, shoppers are more likely to be persuaded by reviews, testimonials, and social proof that the product they are considering is worth the money.

Some examples of things you can test to increase trustworthiness and ultimately conversion rate:

  • Test displaying customer reviews and testimonials on your product pages, or if you already do, test displaying them more prominently on the page.
  • Show how many people are currently looking at the product page or how many have been sold in the last X hours/days. This creates a sense of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out).

According to an analysis from PowerReviews, there’s a 76.7% lift in conversion when consumers are exposed to at least one review, compared to those exposed to none.

Prepare Your CRO Testing Plan Now, and Get Ready to Learn This Holiday Season

A/B testing is a great way to improve your website’s conversion rate, but it’s important to keep in mind that the results of your tests may be affected by the increased motivation of holiday shoppers.

When running tests over the holidays, we recommend focusing on elements that have to do with promotion and trustworthiness. These are two areas where you can make a significant impact on conversion rate without code changes or significant lift. 

According to Jungle Scout’s consumer trends, three out of ten consumers have already begun shopping as of September, and 70% expect to start before Thanksgiving. If you haven’t started yet, it’s time to get your CRO testing plan in gear so you can gather as much insight as possible into your consumer’s behavior and what works best for your business. 

With a CRO testing plan in place, you’ll be able to make informed and impactful changes that will not only increase your bottom line this holiday season, but for holiday seasons to come.

Allison Powers, Digital Marketing and SEO Strategist, Direct Agents