Only use A/B Testing for Micro-level Strategy, not Macro Strategy

Why A/B testing is Best Suited for Micro-level Strategy

Including a case study for "Micro vs. Macro: A/B Testing in Business Strategy"

Nov 2023

A/B testing is typically used to compare two versions of a single variable (A and B) in a controlled environment, allowing you to measure the impact of that specific change.

It's essential for testing specific, well-defined elements like button colors, headlines, or call-to-action text.

For broader changes like positioning or overall strategy, it's more challenging to conduct a traditional A/B test because there are often multiple variables at play, and it's harder to isolate the causal factors.

In such cases, businesses might rely more on market research, customer feedback, and qualitative analysis to inform their decisions rather than A/B testing.

Therefore we're suggesting that A/B testing is better suited for micro-level changes where causality can be established more easily. For macro-level decisions, a different approach to research and analysis is usually necessary.

Let's design a case to illustrate the difference between A/B testing on a micro level and making macro-level decision.

The Case for "Micro vs. Macro: A/B Testing in Business Strategy"

This case study examines the application of A/B testing in the context of business strategy and decision-making. It presents a startup company facing a strategic challenge and explores how they consider A/B testing as a tool.

Key Actors and Stakeholders

  1. Startup Founder: The central character, representing the decision-maker who wants to use A/B testing for a macro-level decision.
  2. Data Analyst: A supporting character who understands the nuances of A/B testing.
  3. Market Researcher: Another supporting character who advocates for traditional market research methods.

Case Structure

  1. Introduction to the Startup: Provide background information on the startup, its industry, and the strategic challenge they are facing (e.g., repositioning their product or changing their market focus).

  2. The A/B Testing Idea: Describe how the startup founder proposes using A/B testing to make the strategic decision, highlighting the misconception of applying it to a macro-level problem.

  3. Data Analyst's Perspective: Present the data analyst's viewpoint, explaining the principles of A/B testing and why it's suitable for micro-level changes. This section could include a mini-lesson on A/B testing methodology.

  4. Market Researcher's Perspective: Introduce the market researcher character, who argues for traditional market research methods (surveys, focus groups, etc.) for macro-level decision-making, emphasizing their strengths and limitations.

  5. Decision Point: The startup founder must decide whether to proceed with A/B testing as initially proposed or consider alternative research methods.

  6. Discussion Questions: Pose questions for students to discuss, such as:

    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of A/B testing in the context of this startup's strategic decision?
    • What are the risks and potential biases associated with A/B testing at a macro level?
    • When is A/B testing appropriate, and when should other research methods be considered?
    • What role should data analysis and market research play in strategic decision-making?
  7. Teaching Notes: Provide guidance to instructors on key takeaways, discussion points, and suggested follow-up activities.


This case study should have helped you understand the limitations of A/B testing in macro-level decisions and encourage critical thinking about when and how to apply different research methods in business strategy.

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