by Aden Andrus June 29, 2017

Balancing Big and Small: An eCommerce Case Study

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, it can be easy to get locked into one of two schools of thought.

On the one hand, there’s a temptation to make big changes until something sticks. Big changes can produce big results, which is usually what most businesses are after. Plus, big changes make it look like you’ve done something a lot more meaningful than tweak button color.

On the other hand, however, there’s also an urge to only make small changes. Small changes are safe and easy to track. If you change your entire page layout and your conversion rate doubled, how do you know which changes provided the boost? And did some of your changes prevent your conversion rate from tripling? When you make big changes, there’s no real way to know.

Depending on who you ask, some marketers are fans of big changes, some are fans of small changes. However, the best conversion rate optimization (CRO) is often a combination of big and small changes.

Big and Small Changes

Big- and small-change based CRO efforts both have their strengths and weaknesses. A big-change based strategy is like gambling: it might pay off…or you might end up losing a lot of money. However, a small-change based strategy may never produce meaningful results.

Like most things in life, effective CRO is a balancing act between the two extremes.

A Quick eCommerce Case Study

For example, at Disruptive, we have an eCommerce client that sells window treatments. About a year ago, we started helping this client optimize their website. They wanted to make purchasing on their site “so easy it’s impossible not to buy something”, but they really hadn’t done much in the way of actual site testing.

When we first started working with this client, it was clear that their mantra had been a major part of their site design. Their site was easy to use. However, a lot of their site pages and page elements didn’t do a whole lot to help guide customers through the purchasing process.

As a result, while their site was easy to navigate, making an actual purchase on the site wasn’t a very intuitive process. Important buttons were hard to find. The journey from interest to purchase was poorly defined. Rather than making it hard not to buy something, their site was actually making it harder to buy.

Testing Their Site

At this point, we had a decision to make. We could either completely redesign the site or start tweaking elements to see what their customers really needed…

Or, we could do both.

Instead of focusing on either big or small changes, we took a different approach to optimizing the client’s site. On some pages, we tested a complete redesign. On others, we made small tweaks to button color, page layout, etc.

By combining big and small tests, we were able to make rapid forward progress without getting off track. Essentially, the redesigns functioned as a sort of range-finding test that allowed us to see how broad changes affected conversion rates. Our small tests allowed us to zero in on exactly which elements of our redesigns were producing which effects.

Essentially, our big tests guided our small tests and our small tests inspired further (and better) big tests.

Ultimately, this combination of big and small increased the client’s conversion rates by 24% in a matter of months. Alone, neither our big nor our small tests produced anywhere close to this level of improvement, but together, we were able to significantly improve site performance.


Often, as marketers, there’s a temptation to focus on either big or small changes. Both big and small changes can produce meaningful results, but you get the best results when you combine the two.

By the way, if you’d like any help balancing big and small changes in your own CRO efforts, let me know here or in the comments. I’d be happy to take a look at your site and suggest a testing strategy that will improve your conversion rate quickly and effectively.

Do you agree with this approach? How do you typically approach conversion rate optimization? What sorts of results have you seen from big and small changes to your site?

  • Site Optimization

Aden Andrus

Aden Andrus

Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive's internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.

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