Amazon Test New Website Design
It’s always interesting to see what ideas a web giant like Amazon is evaluating, particularly when the change is more than just a subtle adjustment.
At present they’re trying out a very different home page.
One thing Amazon does that is super-smart is split test. They don’t rely on the vague irrelevancies of what customers tell them in market research to decide whether a change is worth making: they send customers to the new look at random and check to see what the impact is on behaviour (and particularly on conversion). This means the evaluation isn’t done as an artificial conscious exercise, people don’t know they’re taking part in research: as a result the unconscious drivers of consumer actions are still ‘in-play’ and the artificial influence that comes from asking questions isn’t an issue.
From this perspective it doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else thinks when they evaluate the new design. You may love its clean look, the absence of clutter, the way it works properly in a wide screen format, enjoy accessing menus when you choose (rather than having them forced on you)… but if you end up not searching so effectively or not clicking on the day’s promotions, Amazon will quietly revert to a more profitable previous look and go back to the drawing board.
Tiny changes can have a big impact on conversion. In Consumer.ology I recount a number of examples where changing a photograph, moving a logo or reducing the number of items returned from a search all increased conversion significantly. Whilst as a consumer psychologist I can help identify what might work, and can speculate on what has made a change effective by explaining how it has connected with unconscious drivers of behaviour, it’s only through carefully conducted experiments that we can know for sure what the outcome of a change will be.
Fortunately, split testing is relatively straight-forward on-line, it’s actually reasonably straight-forward in most consumer scenarios, given a little thought: and it’s an investment that is well-worth making because what you get is genuine learning. If you apply the AFECT criteria for psychological confidence, you will realise why you can trust the results of such a test far more than anything from a survey or focus group.