Email Marketing A/B Testing: Your Ticket to Campaign Optimization

Are your email marketing campaigns performing as well as they should be?  The truth is that you can’t be sure unless you’re running A/B testing programs. A/B testing essentially entails splitting your list and sending out two variations of the same message where the “A” message is the control and the “B” is the variation.  Then, you track your results around a variety of important metrics, including opens, click-through rates and conversion.

In the instance that the variation performs better than the control, it becomes the new “champion.” By iteratively testing different versions of the same message and comparing performance, email marketers are not only able to perpetually optimize performance of any given campaign but also glean general learnings around success drivers that can be applied to all campaigns across the board.

What types of variations can be tested?

Subject Lines

Your subject line serves as your initial hook – if it doesn’t resonate, your subscriber won’t even open the message. So, if your open rates aren’t up to snuff, the subject line is a good place to get started with A/B testing. There are a variety of ways to test subject lines – you can test personalized v. non-personalized, “you” v. no “you,” or long v. short.

For instance, you can test personalization along the lines of “Hi Bart, here are the 2014 social media stats and facts you need” v. “2014 social media stats and facts you need.”  Or, you can test “you” v. no “you” – “2014 social media stats and facts you need” against “2014 social media stats and facts.” You can also vary the length – “2014 social media stats and facts” v. “Happy New Year! Social media stats and facts for 2014.”

Email Body Copy

The content within the email body is the key driver of click-through, and the structure of that content can dramatically impact campaign performance.  For instance, you can test a text only version against text with a visual, or you can test a “hard sell” message against a “soft sell” approach.  Or, you can test a familiar tone against a more formal tone to see which performs best.

Call to Action

Once you’ve successfully convinced subscribers to not only open your message but also click-through, the call-to-action is the conversion driver. You can test various action words – things like “Sign Up Now” v. “Reserve Your Space.” Or, you can test different offers – “Today Only – 25% Off Your Purchase” v. “20% off through November.” You can also test the call-to-action placement – for instance top-right corner v. end of text.

While there are a myriad of opportunities with respect to A/B testing, it’s critically important to stay focused and iterative. To effectively capture reliable insight, it’s best to test only one variable at a time, because if you’re testing multiple variables you can’t pinpoint what’s driving success and failure. And when you can identify with certainty what’s working across campaigns – personalized subject lines, for instance – you can apply that general learning as a winning strategy.

With email marketing A/B testing, slow and steady wins the race – and the rewards are rich.

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