If there’s one thing I’ve learned from a decade spent doing growth hacking and conversion rate optimization, it’s that sometimes little things make a big difference.
Take the long time trend of adding “beta” to software logos, for example.
It used to be that 49% of Google’s products (a full 22 out of 49) were in beta, including Gmail, Google Finance, Google Docs, and the like.
Then, in 2009, Google reversed their stance on the matter. They took all of their remaining products out of beta and removed the prominent tag from their logos with Matthew Glotzbach, Director of Product Management at Google Enterprise, stating:
“We’re often asked why so many Google applications seem to be perpetually in beta. For example, Gmail has worn the beta tag more than five years. We realize this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of ‘beta’ software as not being yet ready for prime time […] ‘Beta’ will be removed from the product logos today, but we’ll continue to innovate and improve upon the applications whether or not there’s a small ‘beta’ beneath the logo.”
Given that Google relentlessly tests every major public facing design change, I’ve long had an inkling that the change wasn’t driven by philosophy as much as by compelling test results. So, when I started working with SumAll, and saw that they had a little “beta” scrawled next to their logo, I decided this would be one of the first things we’d test.
This seemed to be such a subtle change that, frankly, I expected the results to be inconclusive, or maybe improve things by 1 to 2% at best.
So much for that.
After a week of A/B testing, we found that removing the beta tag from our logo increased conversion by 20.2% at 96.8% significance. Now, of course, the question is, “why did removing the beta tag improve conversion by so much?” And, the truth is, you never really know why one variant is more effective than another, but you can make assumptions based on your audience.
At SumAll, our audience isn’t normally super technical, software engineer types. In other words, we’re not catering towards the type of people who’d know exactly what “beta” signifies, philosophically or otherwise. Also, we’re asking our audience to share their data with us. Some of them are most likely thinking, “Umm, what does that mean? Does that mean my data isn’t safe? Is this platform going to be around for a while? Can I trust them?”
While most people are totally comfortable chatting with a beta Siri or using a beta Gmail, if PayPal or Citibank said “beta,” folks may be less likely to give them their credit card info.