Conversion Optimization

The A/B test that won an election

The A/B test that won an election

It’s no surprise that winning an election takes hard work and dedication, hundreds of thousands of monetary donations, and the support of millions of people. However, a lesser-known secret to success, one that helped former President Barack Obama win the presidential election in 2008, is A/B testing.

A/B testing, a method that allows marketers to test the effectiveness of different variations of a website using their live website traffic, is one of the most important tools people can use to improve their websites.

Using the data from A/B testing, marketers can pinpoint exactly which elements on their websites need to be adjusted in order to maximize conversions.

When brands use A/B testing, they have the potential to help their conversion rate skyrocket. It was this knowledge of A/B testing that Obama’s campaign strategists utilized in order to help increase signups and donors, ultimately leading to Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.

An estimated 4 million email addresses and $75 million in donations during Obama’s campaign has been attributed to A/B testing. Using the data from A/B tests to drive Obama’s website design and any website changes, Obama’s team was able to maximize the number of donors and subscribers he received, which went a long way in helping his presidential campaign succeed. 

Here’s how they were able to pull this off:

Setting a goal

When Optimizely CEO, Dan Siroker, joined Obama’s campaign, he made sure the rest of Obama’s marketing team was focused on prioritizing website conversions over website visitors.

Obama’s digital advisors and marketing team knew that in order for Obama to win the election in 2008, he would need people who not only visited his website, but also signed up for his email list and made financial contributions to his campaign. As such, they used A/B testing so they could focus on how they could provide an online experience that converted traffic just as much as they focused on building traffic.

Because A/B testing allows people to test everything from their call-to-action buttons to the images shown on their website, Obama’s digital advisors and strategists used this tool to determine how to change his campaign website in order to receive more donors.

Forming and testing a hypothesis

One of the first things Obama’s team tested was his landing page, which featured a turquoise photo of Obama and a bright red button that read “Sign Up.” Siroker and his team came up with the hypothesis that in order to boost conversions, the landing page would need to adjust its call-to-action button and the photo above it. 

They designed a few variations of this landing page to test, with different colored photos and call-to-action text, so that they could use A/B testing to see which landing page was most effective when it came to getting website visitors to actually convert and sign up for Obama’s email list.

For this experiment, the team tested four buttons and six different media options. Using Google Website Optimizer, they were able to form 24 different website combinations to test on website visitors in order to determine which combination of buttons, images, and videos would lead to the most subscribers.

By showing each website visitor a random landing page out of these 24 possible combinations, they were able to test this hypothesis.

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Making data-driven changes

The results of the A/B test allowed Obama’s team to realize that using the phrase “Learn More” instead of “Sign Up” for the Obama campaign email sign up list and updating a photo of the Obama family from a turquoise image to a black-and-white version caused signups to increase by 40.6%, a difference of 2,880,000 email addresses and approximately $60 million in donations.

By looking for the best ways to help visitors convert instead of only focusing on driving traffic to the website, Obama’s team was able to help him create an effective landing page that brought him far more donors than before.

Key takeaways

Using A/B testing made a significant difference in Obama’s campaign. With the data from A/B testing, his team was able to make data-driven decisions that led to more donations. 

Just like how Obama’s digital team was able to use A/B testing to help him win the election, your brand can use this tool to help improve your conversion rate.

Here are a few key takeaways from this experiment that you should consider:

Prioritize conversions over website visitors

While having a high amount of website traffic is important, this metric is meaningless if the visitors leave without taking any action. Siroker was able to recognize this and opted to use A/B testing to see how he could convert visitors into donors.

If you are spending time, money, and resources on driving traffic to your website, but you are not devoting energy into converting this traffic, then you are wasting your efforts. Focus on boosting your conversion rate just as much if not more than increasing website visitors.

Optimize your conversion rate

When it comes to winning an election, every dollar and every supporter counts. Instead of being content with their number of donors and email subscribers, Obama’s digital team understood that their conversion rate could always improve, and they used A/B testing to boost these numbers rather than relying solely on their instincts.

For instance, when Obama gave a speech at a rally during his campaign, many members of his team believed the video would help bring more signups and donations than the images on his campaign landing page. 

However, when the video did not perform the way they expected, rather than attributing this to a lack of motivation and enthusiasm from supporters about his speech, his digital team used A/B testing to see exactly how they could improve the conversion rate. When data from this test showed that Americans preferred to see his black-and-white family photo over the video, they were able to make changes to his website accordingly.

If you have an ecommerce business, you should always be looking for data-driven ways to improve your conversion rate just like Obama’s marketing team did during his campaigns. Your conversion rate can always be better, and you might be surprised by how running simple experiments to test your calls-to-action, headlines, website colors, or copy can make a significant difference for your business. Don’t rely on assumptions. Test. Test. Test.

Testing the right metrics

Another reason why Obama’s presidential campaign was successful is because his team was able to use data to determine exactly which metrics they should test.

Instead of just guessing which elements needed to be changed on Obama’s website, his team used data from his landing page and created 24 versions of the page to test so that they could know exactly what they needed to adjust.

Obama was the first candidate to ever receive $1 billion in donations, largely due to the amount of online donations he was able to procure. Relentless A/B testing played a major role in this accomplishment, and over the course of his campaign in 2012, his team ran more than 500 different tests in order to help him gain more donors and email subscribers.

If you want to step up your conversion rate and grow your ecommerce business, you have to be willing to test as many website features as possible to garner the data needed to optimize your conversions, just like Obama’s team did during his campaign. 

While you may not win the next presidential election, if you are dedicated to receiving the data your business needs to thrive, your business is sure to come out on top.

Learn more about A/B testing and how ConvertCart can help you use this tool to optimize your conversion rate when you visit our website.

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