Optimization glossary

Mobile app A/B testing

What is mobile app A/B testing?

Mobile app A/B testing is the practice of using A/B testing to test different experiences within mobile apps. App users are randomly bucketed into different segments, and each is shown a different experience. After enough users go through the experiment, it is possible to tell with statistical confidence which version of the app leads to higher conversions.  

For example, an app developer might target a mobile game that includes in-app purchases for extra levels. The app developer might want to test out different banners for the levels to see which one is clicked on the most.   

By running an A/B test, they will be able to determine, based on their actual users, which banner performs best. Once the test reaches statistical significance, they can roll out the winning variation to all their users and improve the overall conversion rate.  

Boost your product delivery process   

In the past, large-scale launches were the most common way of releasing exciting new features on mobile apps. Development teams and product teams would work on an idea to get it ready, while marketing would gear up for promotions.   

However, many of these launches failed to gain traction and user engagement. The following impact forced teams to change their entire roadmaps.    

What you need is product validation. Roll out frequently to limited users with fewer risks, validate the performance of every feature and its impact on customer experience. Then, launch.  

Release with confidence through feature flags   

Feature flags are also known as switches or toggles. They allow you to switch on or off the functionality without deploying new code.   

What it gives you is more control over how frequently you release different versions and iteration for your mobile users and learn without impacting the overall user experience.   

If during a feature rollout, you detect errors, performance spikes, or user backlash, you can immediately roll back the changes without having to make changes to the code.  

With feature experimentation, you can:    

  • Deploy changes faster without having to change codes frequently.    
  • Conduct controlled tests to make data-driven decisions for your user base.   
  • Test features and UI/UX changes to have personalized in-app interactions.      

You can even test in production. To test new functionality in production, it's better to slowly introduce features to internal testers using a live app store version of your app.  

If the testing phase is successful, introduce the app feature to a segment of real users. If that works too, make it available to a wider audience in your customer base.  

Benefits of mobile app A/B testing   

The benefits of running A/B tests on mobile apps are similar to those running A/B tests on the web.  

It's the reason why top companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google constantly run experiments and personalization tests in their mobile apps.  

  • Through multivariate testing, you can test variations for experiences within your app and make changes to your app experience based on actual data instead of gut instinct.   
  • You can determine with statistical confidence what the impact of changes you make to your app will have, and measure exactly how great that impact will be on the user flows and your target audience.    
  • To iterate faster on changes and make fixes and updates to live apps during the testing process, you can make changes directly to an app that has been published to Apple's app store, without having to go through the app review process.  

By continually running tests on your mobile app and making it user friendly, you can consistently improve the experience of your app and roll out new features that you know will improve your conversion metrics.  

Mobile app A/B testing in action   

The power of mobile app A/B testing is captured in this case study of Secret Escapes, a travel app for iOS. In the experiment, Secret Escapes used Optimizely to test the impact of removing the option of skipping sign-in to the app. What they found was that making the sign-in mandatory resulted in a higher average lifetime value for the user, and improved the ratio of user LTV to customer acquisition costs.       

Mobile app A/B testing ideas  

Every app is different, and countless changes can be tested on mobile apps. Key areas to focus on when conducting A/B testing are user onboarding, user retention, user engagement rate, and for apps that feature transactions, every step along the sales funnel to maximize conversions.   

Examples of things to test include the number of forms required to sign up for an account, the frequency of push notifications, the text used in calls-to-action (CTA), new features, and ad placement within your user interface.   

If you already have analytics tooling in place, digging into your data and what the end-to-end user experience is like is also a great place to start generating experimentation opportunities.   

For more ideas, see our blog post on 50 Mobile App Development Tips.   

Mobile app a/b testing tools   

Optimizely is one of the leading digital experience platforms for A/B testing on desktop and mobile devices. Optimizely is simple to install with open-source SDKs for Swift, Objective-C, and Java that work for running tests on Android and iPhone apps.   

You can wrap up new features in feature flags, allowing you to roll out new features to specific audiences or a segment of your audience to see how it performs, with real-time, enterprise-level statistics that give you confidence in your test results.

What's more, you can easily roll back any bugs without the need for a code deployment or app-store review-- simply toggle the feature on and off.  

Future proof your mobile apps   

If you want to improve the experience of your iOS or Android app, improve app performance, and make data-driven product changes, start testing every feature today.   

In summary, use mobile a/b testing and a/b test results to:     

  • Integrate work in progress behind a flag and accelerate feature development   
  • Understand user behavior and remove any possible blockers to app store releases   
  • Gradually roll out new features in real time to improve user engagement   
  • Rollback quickly if there are consistent issues in messaging and production   
  • Enable product experimentation and decouple code deployments from market releases   

To learn more about how to build, test, and run apps that your users will love, check out this guide on future-proofing your mobile app with feature flags and experimentation.