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What is Multi Arm Bandit A/B Testing?

Donald Ng
June 26, 2023
5-star rating
Reviews on Capterra
What is Multi Arm Bandit A/B Testing?

Hey marketer, what if we told you there’s a way to not just optimize your marketing campaigns but do it more efficiently than your current strategy? Enter the domain of “multi-armed bandits.”

No, we’re not talking about some super cool sci-fi action heroes. Multi-armed bandits are an approach to solving a widespread problem in marketing: making decisions with uncertainty.

In this article, we’ll take you on a ride to explore the world of multi-armed bandits. By the end of the trip, you’ll not only be an expert in impressing your peers with your knowledge, but you’ll also have an easy-to-understand and powerful strategy you can implement right away to boost your marketing ROI.

Ready to accompany us on this adventurous journey? Hold on tight, and let’s dive right in!

The Multi-Armed What Now?

To thoroughly understand the concept of multi-armed bandits, first, we need to tackle the marketing problem they’re designed to solve: the “exploration-exploitation trade-off.”

When managing marketing campaigns, you’re often faced with the conundrum of whether to focus on what’s been working well so far (exploitation) or to try new ideas that might work even better (exploration).

And this is where multi-armed bandits come into play. It’s a way to balance exploration and exploitation so you can optimize your campaigns effectively without unnecessary losses. Multi-armed bandits provide a framework to help you make decisions when you’re not sure about the best path to follow. Pretty helpful, right?

A Casino Analogy (we promise, it’s easier than you think)

Imagine you’re in a casino, and there’s a row of slot machines (a.k.a one-armed bandits). Each of these machines has a lever that, when pulled, might produce a reward (like cash or extra tokens). These rewards have a probability distribution unique to each machine. Your goal is to maximize your total reward by pulling the different levers.

The exploration-exploitation trade-off dilemma here is deciding when to keep exploiting the machine you believe has the highest reward rate and when to explore the other machines to check if any of them is more profitable than the one you’re currently playing.

The goal of multi-armed bandit algorithms is to minimize the number of times you pull suboptimal levers so you can make the most out of the limited number of pulls you have.

Smart Marketing with Multi-Armed Bandits

Now that we’ve dealt with the casino analogy, let’s apply it to your marketing. The slot machines here would be different versions of your campaigns or content, while the rewards would be metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, or any other KPI you’re optimizing for.

Instead of the traditional A/B testing approach, where you decide on the “winner” after a fixed amount of time or sample size, multi-armed bandit algorithms evaluate the performance of the alternatives on an ongoing basis, adjusting and optimizing your campaign faster and more efficiently.

You can implement multi-armed bandit algorithms for various marketing decisions, such as:

  1. Choosing the best-performing ad design from multiple variations.
  2. Finding the optimal price point for your product or service.
  3. Selecting the most engaging subject lines for your email campaigns.
  4. Determining the best call-to-action for a landing page.

Perks of Adopting Multi-Armed Bandit Algorithms

Here’s why marketers like yourself should consider using multi-armed bandit algorithms in your campaigns:

  1. Faster Decision Making: Adapting and optimizing your campaigns based on the ongoing results helps you make decisions faster, compared to traditional methods like A/B testing, where you have to wait for the testing period to end.
  2. Reduced Opportunity Costs: Allocating more traffic to better-performing alternatives in real-time results in fewer losses and increased ROI.
  3. The Ability to Adapt to Your Audience: Multi-armed bandit algorithms adapt to changes in user behavior, helping you match your audience’s preferences in real-time.
  4. Better Personalization: Implementing multi-armed bandits in context-aware marketing systems helps in providing more personalized experiences to your users by recommending suitable content or products based on individual preferences.

Hold Your Horses, Is It Always The Right Solution?

Although multi-armed bandit algorithms can be highly useful in many marketing scenarios, they may not always be the right solution. For example, if your goal is to gain granular information for a very specific hypothesis, classic A/B testing might prove useful. Also, depending on your specific marketing scenario and traffic volumes, the benefits of using multi-armed bandits might be minimal compared to more straightforward methods.

However, in most cases, multi-armed bandit algorithms hold the potential to revolutionize how you optimize your marketing campaigns and achieve a better return on your investment.


The mighty multi-armed bandit can be a powerful tool in the hands of a smart marketer like you! Ditching the traditional methods in favor of this efficient and optimal approach to optimizing your campaigns is a surefire way to stand out from the marketing crowd.

Want to learn more? We recommend diving deeper into multi-armed bandit algorithms and finding the one that works best for your marketing endeavors. And when you devise the ultimate winning campaign using a multi-armed bandit, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for being one marketing genius!

Now, go conquer the marketing world armed with the power of multi-armed bandits!

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